Union hinges slow economic recovery of West African countries on funding
The lack of resources to jumpstart the economies of most countries in West Africa has cost many workers their jobs and is likely going to further jeopardise the wellbeing of the people and businesses in the sub-region, the Organisation of Trade Unions of West Africa (OTUWA) has said.
The President of the regional labour body, Mademba Sock, who stated this at the opening session of a sub-regional workshop on COVID-19 and post-lockdown social-economic recovery in West Africa, said the sub-region is faced with a chronic lack of resources to reflate the public service at a time of a pandemic.
Sock stated that workers, especially those working in the private sector of the economy, have been very badly hit by the pandemic.
He explained that in the absence of universal social security in many member states and as the countries shut down to prevent the unimpeded spread of the virus, a number of those in the employment of the private sector were either laid off or had their benefits drastically reduced.
He stated that apart from pumping around $16 trillion into its economy, the developed nations also spent billions of dollars to buy up and stockpile hundreds of millions of vaccines against COVID-19.
He added that the self-preservation of the western world has left hundreds of millions of people from the developing nations with virtually no vaccine.
He hinted that the workshop was aimed at reviewing the efforts being made across the sub-region by ECOWAS and the individual national governments to make the vaccine available to the tens of millions of ECOWAS citizens who need them.
“We will similarly review the economic measures being put in place by the various national governments and ECOWAS and WAEMU to stimulate investment in the economics of countries of the sub-region in large, small and medium-sized enterprises,” he said.
He stated that OTUWA will interrogate the post-covid-19 lockdowns and the economic recovery programmes of the member states of ECOWAS and the labour market indicators that will enhance the growth and full recovery of not just the economy but the well-being of workers.
“The workshop is planned to enable us to gather relevant information on the recovery programmes of our respective governments in the ECOWAS sub-region to enable us to engage ECOWAS and the national governments effectively and productively,” he said.
Sock argued that the world may not be able to defeat COVID-19 if it adopts a self-preservation approach that leaves some parts of the world unprotected, saying, “unless the world fight this pandemic globally, we are not likely to win the war convincingly as those sections of the globe left behind can always become the ground to breed the new mutation of the virus. For us in the labour movement, it is therefore in the enlightened interest of the rich countries to ensure that no part of the world is left behind in the vaccine coverage.”
Speaking at the event, a representative of the Danish Trade Union Development Agency (DTDA), Mrs Liliane Napoé, said in addition to the threat to public health, the economic and social disruption, COVID-19 threatens the livelihoods and long-term well-being of millions of people.
“The lockdown and quarantine measures imposed by African governments to prevent the spread of the virus have resulted in reduced incomes for the population and the suspension of activities, with consequent loss of wages for workers, including those in the informal sector, which accounts for nearly 80% of the continent’s workers, who have no social protection safety net,” she noted.
She maintained that with limited access to social protection, low incomes and meagre assets, poor households are facing shocks related to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying this affects workers, their families and their communities.
To address these impacts, she submitted that there is a need to take courageous initiatives to lobby and advocate towards supranational bodies such as ECOWAS for adequate post-Covid-19 socio-economic recovery with social protection legislation and laws covering all populations.
She added that with the lifting of restrictions on business, travel and gatherings by many African governments, the continent is entering a new phase in the management of the COVID-19 crisis and recovery decisions will need to be harmonised for the benefit of the people.