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African unions united for Africa Industrialization campaign

26 November, 2020IndustriALL Global Union’s African affiliates intensify their campaign for African industrialization on 20 November, the day designated by the United Nations. A webinar attended by 60 participants from 16 countries was the latest step after a series of actions taken throughout the year, notably recent national industrialization conferences in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda.

The webinar voiced that African industrialization should be inclusive of multiple stakeholders, including investors, governments, trade unions, employers, civil society organizations, and communities. The webinar concurred that this inclusion is better coordinated through sustainable industrial policies that explained stakeholders’ roles.

This way, the narrative of Africa as a place of poverty could be changed to one of a developing resource rich continent. Further, the responses to the devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic on jobs could be used to grow economies through stimulus packages while the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) provided an opportunity to create millions of jobs. Other factors to be included in the policymaking included climate change and Just Transition as well as adoption of technology through the Fourth Industrial Revolution’ automation and artificial intelligence.

The participants included representatives from the African Development Bank, and civil society organizations, such as the Third World Network Africa and the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe (LEDRIZ) and the Regional Network in Equity and Health in East and Southern Africa (EQUINET).

On the AfCFTA, there were calls for a shift in thinking towards a more developmental approach that avoided the disputed policies of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The meeting heard that the WTO’s trade liberalization policies did not benefit African economies.

Additionally, African economies were more integrated globally than they traded locally, and for development to take place the raw materials export dependent economic model had to be transformed. There should also be conditions on investments to protect workers’ rights and interests.

The webinar discussed that the role of trade is to integrate production and markets. For example, importing cheap tomatoes from Italy for processing plants in Ghana destroyed the local market. It was recommended that countries should remain vigilant on investment, intellectual property, and e-commerce. For instance, the proposal to the WTO by South Africa and India on Covid-19 vaccines was welcomed.

The webinar put special attention on the African Mining Vision (AMV) as an important action plan for strengthening mining and industrialization linkages along national and regional value chains. Further, mining benefited workers, communities, and broader society. However, there is need for better resource governance and respect for human and workers’ rights. To be effective, the AMV must be implemented, accountability improved, and ownership deficits resolved. Health and safety in the mines remain key and the ratification of Convention 176 on safety and health in the mines important. Recognition and support should also be given to artisanal and small-scale mining.

Valter Sanches, IndustriALL general secretary said:

“As trade unions we must put pressure on governments to use minerals to industrialize. We cannot continue to be producers of agricultural commodities, oil and gas resources, and rare minerals used for making batteries, electric vehicles, and smartphones. We have to manufacture and harness possibilities for recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The automotive sector was cited as having potential to create decent work. According to a research report by IndustriALL and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Trade Union Competence Centre for Sub Saharan Africa the sector can attract sustainable investments.

Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary said:

“We will continue to engage the African Union, the AfCFTA, AfDB and civil society organizations for policy engagement on African industrialization. In this respect, unions will continue to receive support to build their capacity to engage in sustainable industrial policies. The automotive, energy, mining, and the textile, garment, shoe and leather sectors, are important for industrialization to take off.”

Webinar part one:

Webinar part two: