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African unions demand strong labour provisions in AfCFTA

African unions demand strong labour provisions in AfCFTA

IndustriAll | 31st January 2023

By IndustriAll

Unions want labour provisions to be included in the next phases of negotiations of the African Continental Free Trade Areas (AfCFTA). This demand comes from IndustriALL affiliates in Kenya, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory coast, Lesotho, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe who were present at a trade and industrial policy conference, in November last year in Ghana.

This conference focused on African continental free trade area, industrialisation and the decent work agenda. This event was part of IndustriALL’s continuous campaign for Africa industrialization.

Phase I of negotiations, which focuses on trade in goods and services and dispute settlement were completed. While Phase II negotiations on investment, competition and protecting intellectual property are expected to be ratified in February. Phase III negotiations will look at e-commerce, including digital trade, women and youth.

In response to union’s concerns, Willie Shumba, a senior expert, and advisor for customs, said one of the objectives of the AfCFTA is to:

“achieve a comprehensive and mutually beneficial trade agreement among the Member States of the African Union.”

He urged trade unions to engage the governments on the labour provisions.

The trade unions further proposed that the AfCFTA should have a trade union forum that discussed labour interests and would also like to engage the African Union (AU), the African Development Bank (AfDB), and other continental institutions on sustainable trade and industrial policies. Unions also discussed strategies that they can use to engage on sustainable trade and industrialization issues at national, regional, and continental levels.

Sector presentations focused on industries that had shown potential for growth with examples drawn from the garment industries in Ethiopia, the automotive sector, and the mining industry as well as their respective value chains. The unions said they will engage with Latin American and European countries on textile, garment, shoe, and leather sector value chains, to learn from their experiences. Unions said training workshops on the African mining vision were important to trade and industrialization.

Ghana-based Third World Network Africa emphasized the importance of an inclusive AfCFTA that catered for the interests of small-scale enterprises.

Johann Ivanov, FES-Ghana director said:

“The AfCFTA has huge potential for the continent and, if implemented correctly, it will have significant employment effects and will create decent jobs. It can lead to the much-needed industrialization, to jobs in more innovative and sustainable sectors. However, social dialogue, the active involvement of trade unions in the formulation of trade and industrial policies, is key to ensuring that workers are not left behind and actually gain from free trade.”

Eric Manzi, ITUC deputy general secretary stressed the significance of the AfCFTA as an instrument of regional integration that will address unemployment through sustainable economic development and the creation of decent jobs.

Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary said:

“The Covid-19 pandemic, high public debt, and limited investments have had an adverse effect on trade and the economies of Sub-Saharan Africa. To reverse this, unions must campaign for a new social contract and multilateralism that amplifies working class voices. This contract should include the Just Transition and climate change on workers terms and must be included in the AfCFTA.”

According to AfCFTA official documents, the agreement will bring together 55 countries with a combined gross domestic product of US$3.4 trillion and will create a single market for the continent’s 1.4 billion people. Furthermore, the agreement is expected to facilitate the expansion of intra-African trade and to integrate regional economic communities as well as improve competitiveness of African economies through increasing production scales. National, regional, and continental value chains are also expected to be developed. Experts also say the trade agreement has potential to contribute towards the attainment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

This conference was organized in cooperation with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES).

 source: IndustriAll