We were not consulted in AfCFTA policy formulation - TUC laments
Modern Ghana | 25th May 2023
By Eric Nana Yaw Kwafo
The Trades Union Congress, Ghana (TUC-Ghana) is unhappy about neglect in the formulation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) policy. This sentiment was shared on Thursday, May 25, when TUC organised Social Partners Consultative Dialogue on the AfCFTA with support from the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The dialogue session was put together to enable cooperation among social partners on the implementation of the AfCFTA agreement in Ghana. The meeting set the stage for crucial engagements to generate ideas and consensus on the pathways towards the realisation of the aspirations and interests of social partners. Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the dialogue, Dr. Kwabena Nyarko Otoo, TUC’s Director of Labour Research and Policy Institute bemoaned the fact, that, the union was not consulted in the formulation of the AfCFTA agreement. He said the lack of involvement in such an initiative that is going to affect labour on the entire continent is very disappointing. “Trade is an important component of our daily lives but it also affects employment.
It has an impact on our members across all sectors of the economy. So far as the trade policy stands or the AfCFTA has an impact on our members, we thought that it was only a matter of necessity that the unions would have been involved to share their perspectives. “It is not simply stopping the process, it is actually sharing our perspectives and making sure that the process is fair, inclusive and eventually inures you the benefit of the country including all its workers. So we are extremely disappointed that such a mammoth, very monumental initiative could go on across the continent without the involvement of unions,” Dr. Kwabena Nyarko Otoo said.
According to him, it is important that all the countries submit to a certain basic standard when it comes to the treatment of Labour under the implementation of AfCFTA. He argued that if this is not done, many companies will be affected negatively under the Agreement, leading to shutdown and the loss of employment. In his interview, Dr. Kwabena Nyarko Otoo noted that the TUC is not giving up. He emphasised that his outfit will go beyond advocacy to drum home the need for the views of the unions to be taken into consideration in the implementation of AfCFTA. “This platform we have today will help us to find strategies and that should go beyond advocacies to take the issues up with our national government first before we go to the continental level,” he shared.
On her part, Senior Technical Specialist at the ILO Country Office in Abuja, Inviolata Chinyangarara noted that it is important for ‘decent work’ to be embedded in the African Continental Free Trade Area policy. She explained that as a tripartite Organisation, the ILO acknowledges that trade is about goods and services but strongly believes human beings are key actors and their welfare should be prioritised. “ILO is a tripartite Organisation. What we want to see in trade investment policies is to ensure that decent work is at the heart of all trade agreements because trade is about goods, it’s about services but it’s also about human beings.
So we want to see international labour standards particularly the fundamental principles and freedom of association and standards against child labour to be embedded in trade agreements.
“So decent work should be at the heart of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement and that is why we are enhancing capacities of our social partners like the TUC to ensure that they come up with positions, they come to the table with their papers and they will also advocate,” Inviolata Chinyangarara told journalists.
In a presentation on behalf of Ignatius Baffour Awuah, the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, at the Social Partners Consultative Dialogue, he assured that government will put the necessary structures in place to ensure the country benefits from the implementation of AfCFTA. He said he is convinced that this will be possible if government is supported by TUC and all other stakeholders.
“We believe that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement provides an enormous opportunity for Ghana to take advantage to promote good trading relations, nurture and grow industries, promote skills development and create employment opportunities for job seekers. “It is therefore our responsibility to put in place the needed structures and systems to harness the economic prospects presented to us by agreement for the benefits of workers and jobseekers. We can achieve this when we work together as partners to develop and implement the required measures for the maximisation of job creation,” the Minister said in his presentation.
About the African Continental Free Trade Area: The AfCFTA is the world’s largest free trade area bringing together the 55 countries of the African Union (AU) and eight (8) Regional Economic Communities (RECs). The overall mandate of the AfCFTA is to create a single continental market with a population of about 1.3 billion people and a combined GDP of approximately US$ 3.4 trillion.
The AfCFTA is one of the flagship projects of Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want, the African Union’s long-term development strategy for transforming the continent into a global powerhouse. As part of its mandate, the AfCFTA is to eliminate trade barriers and boost intra-Africa trade. In particular, it is to advance trade in value-added production across all service sectors of the African