COSATU media statement on the African Trade Union Alliance meeting

On the 14th of August 2023, COSATU participated in a meeting of progressive trade unions from across Africa which took place in Nigeria, Abuja. The federations/national centres came together as the African Trade Union alliance, reaffirming their dedication to championing workers’ rights, economic growth, and political stability on the continent. In the meeting were representatives from Nigeria NLC, South Africa COSATU, Ghana TUC, Kenya COTU, and Senegal, the alliance stands united to amplify the voice of the labour movement and seeks to drive transformation.

The alliance meeting marked a significant milestone as representatives gave country updates, shedding light on prevailing political, economic, and labour market conditions in their respective countries. Notably, the state of the trade union movement in each country took centre stage, highlighting the challenges they are facing and the ongoing activities. This meeting provided a platform for an exchange of ideas, fostering a deeper understanding of shared concerns and goals.

Amongst the key discussions was the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), a ground-breaking initiative that currently lacks labour provisions. Recognizing the urgency, the alliance is steadfast in its commitment to advocate for fair labour representation in the continental, regional, and country-specific institutions that shape trade and industrial policies. The alliance plays a critical role in the safeguarding of workers’ interests, fostering decent work, and promoting inclusive and equitable economic development. The alliance’s dedication extends to addressing critical matters such as rules of origin protocols and ensuring fair and sustainable trade practices relating to the AfCFTA. Additionally, it is critical to ensure that campaigns are taken up to ensure that provision for labour are included in the AfCFTA.

Acknowledging the value of shared international insights, the alliance emphasized the importance of extensive study trips to regions that have achieved successful regional integration, notably the East Asian economies. These learning experiences will inform strategic approaches and enhance the alliance to navigate challenges effectively whilst building internal capacity.

Furthermore, the alliance highlighted the importance of forging partnerships and united fronts among labour movements, progressive think tanks, and civil society. These collaborative efforts aim to drive a progressive developmental regional integration agenda, spanning across continental, regional, and national levels. By harnessing diverse expertise and collective strength, this alliance seeks to create an environment conducive to sustainable growth, shared prosperity, and development.

The key priorities identified during the meeting include:

Shape Policy and Research: Prioritizing policy formulation and research, the alliance is committed to driving sustainable trade and industry development across Africa. Advocating for labour representation within the AfCFTA framework, the alliance strives to ensure that workers’ voices shape policies for equitable growth, job creation, and industrial progress.

Strengthen Partnerships: Recognizing the power of collaboration, the alliance aims to build united fronts with progressive think tanks and civil society. Together, they will champion a progressive developmental regional integration agenda, advancing a vision of shared prosperity and inclusive development.

Building unity and common purpose of the African trade union movement, particularly in each of our regions, to overcome the fragmentation, disunity and splintering that affects the collective capacity of the union movement to act in unison and make maximum impact.

As the African trade union movement solidifies its unity and purpose, the alliance’s vision for a stronger, more equitable continent gains momentum. Through collaborative efforts, informed strategies, and coordinated action, the alliance sets the stage for a brighter future for workers and communities across Africa.

Issued by COSATU

For more information please contact:

Noxolo Bhengu(COSATU Deputy International Secretary)

Cell: +27 72 866 7046