International Labour Organisation Director-General, Guy Ryder, has called on African countries to seize the opportunities that exist on the continent to advance towards a human-centred future of work. He was speaking at the opening of the ILO’s 14th African Regional Meeting in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, which brings together the ILO’s tripartite constituents representing governments, workers and employers from 54 African countries. They will be reviewing the progress made in implementing the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda and charting a course towards a future with decent work in the region. Ryder referred to projections for economic growth in Africa that are higher than the global average; a ‘demographic dividend’ that will see labour force numbers rising to 60 per cent; the continent’s unique potential for creating renewal energy; and opportunities for development that could be opened up by advances in technology.
‘Africa has every reason to regard the future with confidence. Young, rich in resources, dynamic and creative, it offers possibilities which in many ways, do not exist in other regions. However, as always, there are challenges. Among these is the need to create twenty-six million jobs every year in Africa to meet the objectives of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Other challenges, he said, include a social protection financing gap amounting to 68 billion US dollars a year; economic, social and migratory pressures; and the impact of climate change and globalisation. “What we seek is a future of work with social justice as the surest guarantee we can have of peace and prosperity in African and in the world. This is the unfinished business of our 100 year old Organisation which we must take forward together.”
During his speech, Ryder focused on the ‘human-centred’ approach outlined in the ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work that was adopted at the International Labour Conference (ILC) in June 2019. This ‘human-centred’ approach is based on investing in people’s capabilities, the institutions of work that ensure that labour is not a commodity, and in decent and sustainable work, particularly in the green, rural and health care economies. Ryder also outlined particular priorities for Africa: The formalisation of the informal economy, which accounts for 80 per cent of the workforce. the structural transformation of production; economic diversification; creating an enabling environment for the creation of decent jobs; tackling inequality; actions to promote full and equal participation of women in the labour force.
He also called for accelerated action to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the Global Compact on Safe and Orderly Migration, as well as promises made by governments to tackle climate change. “We should not avert our eyes from the reality that in most aspects, the international community is well off-track in delivering the 2030 Agenda and that the planet is fighting back hard in the war that we humans have abusively launched against it. And because decent work is so deeply involved in all of these challenges, we are, very clearly, called upon to do better.”
Delegates will discuss the Director-General’s report to the Conference on Advancing social justice: shaping the future of work in Africa, with a view to formulating policy recommendations for inclusive growth and social progress. The meeting takes place as the ILO celebrates its Centenary and it 60th year since it established its first permanent presence on the African continent. At the opening session Pascal Abinan, Côte d’Ivoire’s Minister of labour and social protection was elected President of the 4-day meeting. Paul Mavimba (Zimbabwe) was elected Government Vice-Chair; El Mahfoudh Megateli, (Algeria) was elected Employer Vice-Chair and Francis Atwoli, (Kenya) was elected Worker Vice-Chair.