Around 80 participants from 20 Sub-Saharan African countries attended IndustriALL Global Union’s Conference on Industrialization in Africa, in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 7 December 2018, to explore union strategies on sustainable industrialization of the continent.
“Africa should boost its manufacturing, which is low according to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization,” said Issa Aremu, Vice-President of IndustriALL representing Sub-Saharan Africa. “The focus should be on manufacturing and value addition that creates decent jobs.”
“We cannot talk of industrialization and Industry 4.0 without infrastructural development. Energy policies are important and access to electricity critical,” Arremu added.
Even though there has been economic growth over the last two decades, the African continent has not seen a rise industrialization. Growth has been the result of expansion of domestic markets and some macroeconomic developments, favorable commodity prices, urbanization and increasing public and private investment.
The conference stressed that the development model of low-tech extraction and export of raw materials including minerals, oil and gas, and agricultural products isn’t working. African industry generates merely US$700 of GDP per capita, compared to US$2,500 in Latin America and US$3,400 in East Asia.
The conference recommended an alternative development model will be one anchored-on manufacturing, responsible mining, sustainable industrial policies, fair trade, Just Transition and living wages, and should be in sync with the UN Sustainable Development Goals especially on green and decent jobs.
However, the success of an alternative model is hinged on the political will of governments and strong national institutions, reforming international finance institutions approaches to development, responsive multinational companies, sustainable environmental policies, and the essential involvement of civil society organizations and communities.
“Africans live in poorness surrounded by richness,” said IndustriALL’s Assistant General Secretary, Kemal Özkan. “This cannot be the destiny of our African sisters and brothers. Industrialization is the best route for change and a means to promote economic and social policies that benefit African people.”
Participants agreed that unions must have a say in shaping economic and social policies as important actors representing workers. Fair representation of young workers, education and lifelong learning, and innovation in collective bargaining are needed for changing workplaces.
The conference recommended that unions adopt some of the recommendations of The Africa Mining Visionwhich articulates what should be done for mineral resources to support sustainable industrialization.
The participants decided to take action vis-à-vis African Union as part of the ongoing campaign for sustainable industrial development, and design and develop national plans and actions through IndustriALL’s national affiliates’ councils.
“Our campaign of Africa Industrialization is critically important for our affiliates in Sub-Saharan African countries. IndustriALL Global Union will continue to support its affiliates” said Kemal Özkan, Assistant General Secretary.
The conference, hosted by IndustriALL Global Union and its affiliates in Sub Saharan Africa, was supported by the International Labor Organization (ILO), Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), national trade union centers and civil society organizations.