Africa-Arab States Tripartite Interregional Meeting on Labour Migration: Opportunities for exchange and future dialogue

From 15-16 November 2021, the African Union Commission (AUC) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) hosted the virtual Africa-Arab States Tripartite Interregional Meeting on Labour Migration.

Press release | 23 November 2021
Over 200 participants from governments, Regional Economic Communities, employers’ and workers’ representatives, civil society organizations, academia as well as international development partners and United Nations agencies working in Africa and the Arab States of the Middle East participated in the meeting. The meeting aimed to take stock of progress and good practices, build networks and strengthen dialogue between Africa and Arab States in order to achieve decent work and fair migration outcomes for migrant workers, employers, governments, and society.
One plenary and five thematic expert panels sparked exchanges on recent trends in labour migration in the Africa-Arab States labour migration corridor, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic; opportunities for skills development and recognition; reforms to extend social protection for migrant workers; re-negotiation and implementation of bilateral labour agreements in light of the gaps exposed during the pandemic; innovations to advance fair recruitment, including use of technology; and significant reforms to promote internal labour market mobility of migrant workers in the Gulf States. Senior government officials spoke in all panels and the audience was able to engage virtually with the speakers and share resources.
Speaking on behalf of Mariama Cissé, Director of Social Development, Sport and Culture within the African Union Department for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development, Sabelo Mbokazi, Head of the Labour Employment and Migration Division, highlighted the importance of the Africa-Arab States partnership. “Migration when well-managed can have substantial positive impact to countries of origin, transit, and destination.” He added that “the AU and Arab States need to promote the creation of legal pathways for migration with more tangible benefits for countries of origin, transit and destination. Finally, we shall reaffirm our resolve to strengthen our responses in our provision of assistance and protection for vulnerable migrants, including women, girls and children.”
Cynthia Samuel-Olonjuwon, ILO Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Africa, said the “success of this dialogue should be measured through positive changes in the lives of migrant workers, and socioeconomic benefits for both regions”.
She added that “labour mobility and labour migration are about people’s aspiration for a better life and a decent job. When well governed and rights-based, labour migration offers workers the opportunity to improve their personal and financial situations, for employers to hire the skills they need, and governments to contribute to the socioeconomic development of their societies.”
Christian Frutiger, Vice-Director of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, which supported the meeting, expressed his conviction that “such multi-stakeholder deliberations as today’s dialogue are important for advancing safe labour migration. A constructive and results-oriented exchange can benefit economic and social development in both, countries of origin and countries of destination.”
Tariq Haq, speaking on behalf of the ILO Regional Director for Arab States, Dr Ruba Jaradat, noted that the discussions were “rich, multi-faceted and thought-provoking,” and furthermore demonstrated “the power of social dialogue and the importance of bringing perspectives from both countries of origin and destination when discussing key technical issues and challenges in ensuring decent work and fair migration.”
During the tripartite interregional meeting, the State of Qatar announced its intention to host a meeting in Doha between Africa and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries during the first quarter of 2022 to build on the opportunity for dialogue that this interregional meeting presented.
Currently, a significant number of African migrant workers are employed in the Arab States in a range of sectors, including construction, retail trade, hospitality, and domestic and care work. Despite the drop in migration flows over the past year linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, labour migration from Africa to the Arab States is expected to increase in the years to come, and therefore it is imperative to address the risks and challenges related to labour migration governance, as well as to enhance the opportunities relating to these migration flows.