The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) joins millions of Africans on the continent, as well as in the diaspora, in celebrating the 57th Africa Day, which is our common heritage and space for reflection on the present and future of our beloved continent. This day provides us an opportunity to reflect on the progress we have made in driving collective socio-economic growth and development, and good governance. Our continent has some of the fastest-growing economies in the world, and as individual countries, steps are being have taken towards reducing poverty and inequality, as well as improving health and education.
Whilst we have many achievements to celebrate, the road ahead is long – as we tackle the many faces of inequality, deprivation, joblessness, and labour exploitation With high levels of unemployment and vulnerable employment on the rise, work in Africa is still facing tremendous challenges in terms of job creation and sustainability. In addition to the already existing challenges, this year started off on a sombre note as we try to understand the COVID-19 pandemic – a virus that has caused untold suffering globally. Apart from the tragic loss of life caused directly, and indirectly, by COVID-19, we cannot ignore how the precariousness and vulnerability of the working class is exposed on the continent. The hardest hit are the proletariat and the lumpen proletariat who must rely on dysfunctional governments to render social assistance, whilst getting medical healthcare in defunct healthcare institutions. This is causing further uncertainty in a continent already grappling with widespread geopolitical and economic instability.
Despite the above challenges which are exacerbated by COVID-19, COSATU is confident that as a continent, we will remain resilient during this crisis. We are hopeful that the rebound from COVID-19 will coincide with the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which should provide an additional boost to economic activity in Africa in the coming years. The AfCFTA is the first continent-wide African trade agreement, with the potential to facilitate and harmonise trade and infrastructure development in Africa, with great prospects for our people.
On the continent, COSATU calls for the prioritisation of the following:
- · Building strong workers alliances and strengthening the continent’s trade union movement,
- · Building and strengthening workers’ global solidarity,
- · Condemning exploitative labour practices,
- · Advocating for health and safety in the workplace,
- · Advocating for decent work,
- · The ratification of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) fundamental Conventions,
- · Improved social dialogue and collective bargaining,
- · Better management of 4IR technologies in the workplace,
- · Universal social protection,
- · Organising in the formal and informal economies,
- · Elimination of violence and sexual harassment at work, and an
- · End to xenophobia and the victimisation of migrant workers.
Having known this, Africa has no option than to unite. In unity lies our strength to resist any form of foreign domination and oppression. In unity we can fight against imperialism and the lingering effects of colonial politics. In unity lies the socio-cultural, political, and economic development for which we clamour. In unity lies our solution to fighting against the continued “scramble for Africa” by opportunistic nations.
As we reflect on our long and hard felt journey to freedom, we also call upon the African Union (AU) to act decisively against the acts of gross human rights violations on the African continent. We also urge the continental body to not only foster collaboration in tackling COVID-19, but to chart a development path in which accountability, transparency and inclusive governance are the norm post-COVID.
Sonia Mabunda-Kaziboni (Cde)
Cosatu Head Office