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Unions call for rapid and sustainable industrialization of Africa

17 September, 2020Around 60 participants from IndustriALL Global Unions’ Sub-Saharan African affiliates attended a virtual think tank to discuss African industrialization during the Covid-19 pandemic and develop a concrete plan of action.

The United Nations marks 20 November as Africa Industrialization Day, saying that “the success of Africa’s industrialization programme will require the creation of enabling environment.” Unions insist that this requires the participation of the whole of society, particularly workers and trade unions.

IndustriALL and its affiliates in the region have consistently campaigned for the rapid industrialization and sustainable development of the continent and individual countries through various events, actions and activities.

Issa Aremu, IndustriALL vice president for the region said:

“Local level engagement on industrial policies is key, and trade unions should include sustainable industrial policies in their everyday work and also fight for beneficiation of industrial raw materials such as oil and minerals.”

The think tank, held on September 9, is part of a series of activities in preparation for Africa Industrialization Week, which runs from 17-23 November, after the Virtual Youth and Industrialization Conference on July 31.

The expert report discussed in the meeting outlined that “if proper institutions are set up at national level to support the implementation of the AfCFTA; then there is potential to address obstacles that African countries face in global production and trade systems.” The report also shows that the shocks that Covid-19 brought to African economies include reduced trade with China, Africa’s biggest trading partner. But domestic industries have manufacturing capacity, as recently seen in the production of Covid-19 supplies including hand sanitizers, gloves, masks, liquid soap, and ventilators.

The participants discussed the role of intergovernmental institutions, particularly the African Union (AU), in promoting faster industrialization through programmes, including the Accelerated Industrial Development of Africa (AIDA) programme that falls under the Agenda 2063 plan that promotes regional integration.

One of the plan’s flagship projects is the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which became operational in 2019 with a secretariat in Ghana. The AfCFTA is expected to boost intra-African trade and create thousands of jobs.

The African Development Bank was also highlighted as an institution where IndustriALL and its affiliates should seek policy development and concrete implementation for industrialization.

The think tank decided to take interact directly with these institutions to raise workers’ demands for a fairer economy.

The meeting also discussed union demands on sustainable mining as proposed in the African Mining Vision (AMV). “Minerals should be linked to greater sustainable socio-economic development through fiscal and economic linkages that are at the heart of the AMV,” said IndustriALL mining director Glen Mpufane.

“Sustainable mining means the existence of public policies that promote the use of mineral resources for economic and social development, and to avert the worst impacts on the environment through strict regulations,” added Brian Kohler, director for health, safety and sustainability. 

The think tank coincides with a global debate on the transformation of economies, reconfiguration of international production and reshaping of global supply chains. The participants underlined the importance of a shift to sustainable economic development policies, especially after the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan said:

“As part of the Africa Industrialization campaign, over the next two months, we will continue to take action at regional and country level in Africa. We will continue to highlight the important role that unions can and should play to influence policy engagement at national and regional levels”.

Following a series of actions, the campaign programme for 2020 will have a virtual event on November 20 for voicing unions’ demands.