Crisis response in Africa

First African Decent Work Symposium hears calls to invest in employment and sustainable enterprises

The First African Decent Work Symposium “Recovering from the crisis: the implementation of the Global Jobs Pact in Africa” opened in Ouagadougou on 1 December with three heads of state and ministers of labour and finance and representatives of employers’ and workers’ organizations from more than 45 African countries.

Press release | 01 December 2009

OUAGADOUGOU (ILO News) – The First African Decent Work Symposium “Recovering from the crisis: the implementation of the Global Jobs Pact in Africa” opened in Ouagadougou on 1 December with three heads of state and ministers of labour and finance and representatives of employers’ and workers’ organizations from more than 45 African countries.

Presidents Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso, Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal and Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé of Togo addressed the Symposium’s opening.

President Compaoré of Burkina Faso called for balanced economic policies to ensure the promotion of investments, employment and social protection, as a basis for a fair globalization. He added that the application of the Global Jobs Pact, based on the Decent Work Agenda, was urgent to combat poverty and promote sustainable enterprises and jobs in Africa.

President Wade of Senegal explained he came to the Symposium in search of new ideas: “Employment remains our main concern, as it doesn’t increase at the same pace as economic growth.” He called for more investment to generate economic activity and employment; and deplored prevailing unfair trade practices.

President Gnassingbé of Togo stated: “When ILO speaks about decent work we feel directly concerned. Employment, micro-enterprises and self-employment are priorities for the young.”

Speaking at the opening of the African Symposium on Decent Work, ILO Director-General Juan Somavia recalled the productive vision that underpinned the Global Jobs Pact, adopted by the International Labour Conference in June 2009.

“This is the response of the real economy to the havoc created by the financial crisis, based on longer term investment for growth and development, with sustainable enterprises, employment, skills development, social protection and respect for workers’ rights,” Mr. Somavia said.

Mr Somavia further added: “There can be no sustainable recovery from the crisis without a recovery in employment, here in Africa and in the world.” He recalled the decision of the ILO Governing Body in November 2009 which said that the jobs crisis “deserves the same high level political priority that has been given to the rescue of financial institutions.” He said: “We cannot have two different ways of addressing the same global problem. The financial system must be put at the service of the real economy.”

Mr Somavia stated the global crisis had accelerated the need for a paradigm shift in growth and development centred on people’s basic needs for productive jobs, social protection, voice and rights at work. This could not be achieved without Ministers of Labour and Social Affairs, Ministers of Finance, Economy and Trade, working together for an employment-oriented framework for growth and development.

The President of the Pan African Parliament, Mr Idriss Moussa Ndele, speaking at the opening of the Symposium, stated: “Parliaments in Africa played an essential role in the promotion of decent work as the best means to reduce poverty and ensure strong and sustainable growth with social progress for all”.

Cheik Sidi Diarra, United Nations Under-Secretary General and Special Representative for Least Developed Countries, speaking at the opening of the Symposium, said: “Official development aid should be maintained and even strengthened to better support decent work in Africa, especially in least developed countries.”

A technical paper prepared for the Symposium, Recovering from the crisis: The implementation of the Global Jobs Pact in Africa details five transmission channels of the global financial crisis to working families and enterprises in Africa, namely declining exports and commodity prices, tourism, foreign direct investment, remittances of migrant workers and uncertain official development aid flows.

The global crisis has strongly impact Africa, with economic growth projected to fall to between 1 and 2 per cent in 2009 from a path of over 5 per cent since 2002. Such low growth, below population growth, will make for negative GDP per capita growth in 2009, putting the achievement of MDG goals in jeopardy.

The Symposium follows on an African Union Extraordinary Summit on Employment and Poverty Reduction in Africa held in 2004 in Ouagadougou, the first regional Summit to firmly place productive employment and decent work for all at the centre of economic and social policies.

Presenting the Declaration entitled "Working Together for the Global Jobs Pact" adopted at the Second African Social Partners’ Forum on the mobilization of social dialogue for the implementation of the Global Jobs Pact, held November 30, 2009 on behalf of members of the Pan African Confederation of Employers (CPE), the African Regional Organization of International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Africa) and the Organization of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU), Ms. Rabiatou Diallo, Secretary General of the Confederation of Workers of Guinea and member of the Governing Body of the ILO, said: "We worked together to collective ownership of the Global Jobs Pact” and she urged all to use the Pact "as a tool to initiate a process of sustainable and equitable development".