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«320th Session of the ILO Governing Body Meeting of African Region Government Delegates 19 March 2014, 10:00 1 Honourable Ministers, Dear Delegates to ...»

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Address by:

Mr Aeneas C. Chuma

ILO Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Africa

320th Session of the ILO Governing Body

Meeting of African Region Government Delegates

19 March 2014, 10:00


Honourable Ministers,

Dear Delegates to the ILO’s Governing Body,

Dear Colleagues,

Thank you so much for inviting me to meet this group – my primary constituency.

Thank you for welcoming me so warmly to the ILO.

I wish to extend special thanks to Mr Bernard Mbemba, Regional Coordinator for Africa, for his words of encouragement at my first session of the ILO Governing Body.

It is a great pleasure and a privilege to be with you.

I have entered the ILO at a critical time, both for the organization itself, which is undergoing reform and, more particularly, for the African region.

Ten years ago, in 2004, African leaders convened in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, and agreed to put employment at the centre of their economic and social policies. Most notably, the African leaders agreed to take action to reverse the trends of pervasive and persistent poverty, unemployment and under-employment on the continent and to demonstrate tangible improvement in the living standards of citizens. Three years later, in 2007, African constituents met at the 11th African Regional Meeting of the ILO in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and adopted the Decent Work Agenda in Africa (2007-15) to consolidate the ILO’s support to the implementation of the Ouagadougou Declaration and Plan of Action.

As you know, this year, in September, an Extraordinary Session of the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government will convene, once again in Ouagadougou, to 2 evaluate progress over the past 10 years, and to map a way forward. The ILO is committed to supporting this important process and is already working closely with the African Union Commission on preparations, both for the Special Session of the Labour and Social Affairs Commission which will convene next month in Windhoek, Namibia, where I hope to see you all, as well as for the Extraordinary Session itself. Next year, in 2015, African tripartite constituents will again gather, for the 13th African Regional Meeting of the ILO, to review achievements under the Decent Work Agenda in Africa and to identify priorities for the coming years. I am certain that the deliberations at Ouagadougou+10 will be our guiding principle in that effort.

I am excited to have joined the ILO at this significant crossroads.

Ouagadougou 2004 was a political milestone. For Ouagadougou+10 to be a success, however, specific attention, and concrete action will be needed in key areas and I would like to elaborate on some of these, which will also allow me to convey to you some of my own initial

thoughts for the ILO’s work in the African region in the time ahead. These are:

- Employment creation, with a focus on young people;

- Social protection;

- Sound labour relations and social dialogue, anchored on International Labour Standards;


- Labour migration First, employment creation

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average GDP growth averaging 5.2 and 5.3 per cent in 2011 and 2012 respectively. In spite of deceleration of growth in North Africa in the wake of the Arab Spring, regional economic growth in North Africa reached a record high of 9.8 per cent in 2012. Natural resources, and the related government spending they have generated, accounted for one-third of Africa’s GDP growth from 2000 through 2010. The remaining two-thirds came from other sectors, including wholesale and retail, transportation, telecommunications and manufacturing.

Economic growth has not been inclusive, however. Economic growth has not been matched by growth in employment. Throughout the region, the same scenario emerges; there is limited job creation in those sectors that contribute most to GDP. Why is this so? There was economic growth but not economic transformation.

In order to address this, a shift in development thinking is required, which prioritizes employment generation, especially for youth. Many African countries have already formulated or are in the process of formulating national employment policies, which are increasingly linked to poverty reduction strategies. Experience in many countries has shown the potential of policy interventions for restructuring the pattern of growth towards sustainable job-rich growth. The aim of national employment policies is to present a clear strategic vision of the challenges facing the countries and to channel policy makers’ efforts towards priority measures to promote employment and decent work. This message was, amongst other things, reiterated by the African Ministers gathered at the 15th Regional Seminar of Labour-based Practitioners in Yaoundé, Cameroon, last month, who called for increased participation of local enterprises and people in infrastructure development in Africa

–  –  –

later this month for their Seventh Joint Annual Meeting under the theme Industrialization for Inclusive and Transformative Development in Africa.

World population data for 2013 suggest that Africa’s population growth will be the world’s fastest between now and 2050, increasing from 1.1 billion to 2.4 billion, including over a billion people of working age by 2050. 41 percent of the population in Africa is under the age of 15. This fact must place education and skills training for youth employment at the forefront of economic policies in Africa. A study from 2010 suggests that if Africa can provide its young people, especially young women, with the education and skills they need, this large workforce could become a significant source of rising global consumption and production. In the absence of opportunities for youth, overall population growth will make it difficult for economies to create enough jobs to lift large numbers of people out of poverty.

The promotion of youth employment must address both the supply and demand sides of national labour markets. Measures aimed at improving the qualifications of young people can improve the alignment of labour supply with the requirements of the labour markets.

Measures such as pro-employment macroeconomic policies, private and public sector development, the provision of finance and venture capital and public works schemes are likely to increase the demand for labour. Active labour market policies and institutions are thus essential for facilitating the school-to-work transition. Furthermore, investing in quality jobs promotes employment growth and generates new opportunities that meet youth aspirations and qualifications. This is the conclusion of a recent ILO report on Labour market transitions of young women and men in sub-Saharan Africa which was launched last

–  –  –

Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Zambia). Through our ongoing collaboration with the African Union, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the African Development Bank on a Joint Youth Employment Initiative for Africa, which was officially launched last year, I see great scope for supporting member States in designing and implementing labour market policies that actively target youth employment.

This takes me to my second point, social protection At the Second African Decent Work Symposium, which was organized in Yaoundé, Cameroon, in October 2010, African countries adopted the Tripartite Declaration on the Implementation of the Social Protection Floor, recognizing that sound social protection is a political, economic and social necessity, and a prerequisite for inclusive growth. Social protection is an essential concern for African countries because it extends social security to the labour force, enabling them to protect and build their human and physical capital in times of unemployment. It can protect people from hunger and malnutrition, and sustain their access to education and other basic services.

Many African countries, at different levels of development, have acknowledged the need to embark on more inclusive development paths which are based on an expansion of productive capacities and the well-being of the population. Efforts to create a more enabling environment for sustainable and inclusive economic growth require investment in the human capital of the population throughout the life cycle, through access to health, education and other social services, as well as at least a minimum level of income security that empowers people to

–  –  –

in a number of countries across Africa, which shows that even in situations of tight budgetary constraints some investment in social protection can be made. National experience from Botswana, Namibia and South Africa has demonstrated that it would in principle be possible and affordable to provide the entire population with a minimum package of social benefits and services including access to basic health care, basic income transfers in case of need, and basic education. This type of basic social protection package would have a major impact on the reduction of poverty and the improvement of living standards. Let me highlight the particular importance of maternity protection in this respect. Such protection not only ensures a woman’s equal access to employment, it also ensures the continuation of often vital income which is necessary for the well-being of her entire family.

Limited access to social protection mechanisms remains one of the main policy challenges in achieving sustainable growth, productive employment and Decent Work in Africa. I believe that investing in people’s social protection will help African countries develop their full productive potential, contribute to the formalization of employment, support economic and social change, foster sustainable and equitable growth, reduce vulnerability and boost economic and social development.

Thirdly, sound labour relations and social dialogue The promotion of sound labour relations is central to decent work. There have been significant developments in the legislative and institutional framework for industrial and employment relations in a number of countries in Africa. Some countries have strengthened

–  –  –

improvements in wages and working conditions. A number of countries have taken steps to promote sound labour relations through the establishment and effective functioning of institutions and services for dispute resolution. Good examples of this emerged last September when tripartite constituents from North Africa and the Arab States met in Sharmel-Sheikh, Egypt, to review “Labour Market Governance in the Context of Changing Arab Societies”. In Tunisia, a tripartite social contract was concluded last year which paves the way for improvements in areas such as labour legislation and industrial relations, employment policies, social protection and vocational training, as well as balanced regional development.

Despite these developments, mechanisms and processes remain underdeveloped in many countries. The numbers of workers belonging to trade unions and who have their wages determined by collective agreements remains low – particularly when considering their numbers in proportion to total employment, including self-employed workers in the informal economy. The growth of temporary labour services, alongside long-standing informal employment relationships in many countries excludes disproportionately large number of workers from protection by labour law due to the difficulty in establishing whether or not an employment relationship exists and with whom. Here, I mention, in particular, the situation of domestic workers.

Over the past years, there has been a growing demand by constituents for ILO technical support in the field of establishing or strengthening mechanisms for tripartite social dialogue at the policy level.

–  –  –

Decent Work Agenda in Africa. The building blocks for effective social dialogue include well-resourced institutions for tripartite social dialogue, mechanisms and processes that promote sound labour relations and a solid legislative foundation for labour relations.

Processes of regional economic integration can have an important role in advancing such mechanisms, which need to be taken advantage of.

Lastly, labour migration Migration is one of the key global – and African – challenges for economic development, social cohesion and governance. The dearth of employment opportunities and decent work, combined with widening disparities in incomes and human security, as well as demographic trends, have led to increased migration pressures in Africa. Overall, there is a lack of a coordinated approach to labour migration in several countries in the region.

Between 8 and 9 million Africans are living and working outside their countries of birth, most in Africa but many in Europe, the Gulf States and other continents. While low- or semiskilled non-professional occupations predominate, there are also significant numbers of skilled workers and professionals among African migrants. The resulting skill drain is a major concern.

However, labour migration also generates valuable remittances for families in the recipient countries. Increased mobility of working women and men across borders is set to become a permanent feature of the African and global economy. The treatment accorded to migrants often leads to discrimination and social exclusion. Avoiding this requires establishing explicit

–  –  –

Labour Migration offers a comprehensive approach to establishing national, regional and international policies, structures, mechanisms and practices to effectively govern labour migration in Africa.

Regional policy should focus on minimizing and compensating for the brain drain, through increased knowledge opportunities for migrants, enterprise development, streamlining remittance channels and investment opportunities, and the adoption and effective implementation of the ILO’s core migration standards. This requires concerted promotional efforts by the ILO’s tripartite constituents, including through strategic alliances.

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