102nd International Labour Conference

Introductory remarks by Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General, for the visit of Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of African Union Commission

Statement | Geneva, Switzerland | 17 June 2013
President of the Conference, Nidal Katamine,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

We welcome Dr Dlamini Zuma warmly and sincerely to our Conference and to the ILO.

An activist and a medical doctor, with a distinguished political career in your country, South Africa, you are the first woman at the helm of the African Union Commission.

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the African Union and it is being celebrated under the theme of Pan Africanism and the African Renaissance.

Madam Chairperson,

I was privileged not only to attend the important commemorative event in Addis Ababa which confirmed that Africa is rising but also to witness at first hand African leaders’ engagement and enthusiasm for consolidating and advancing Africa’s achievements.

Your presence with us today is all the more meaningful because it gives us the opportunity to celebrate with you the African Renaissance and perhaps more importantly, to reflect together on how the ILO can and must contribute to it.

In 1965 the partnership between the ILO and the African Union, which was then the Organization of African Unity, was forged. We have been honoured to collaborate over the years in many areas, particularly with the Labour and Social Affairs Commission.

Our founding principle that “all human beings have the right to pursue both their material well-being and their spiritual development in conditions of freedom and dignity, of economic security and equal opportunity" underlies everything that the ILO does, including in your continent, Africa.

It is extremely encouraging to see ILO values widely appreciated by African countries as keys to their development process. Many have ratified our eight fundamental Conventions reflecting a strong commitment to fundamental principles and rights at work.

Africa is rising and it is encouraging to see African economies growing so strongly and African countries bringing down poverty levels and progressing on the decent work agenda. Yet, jobless growth is a challenge to the African continent, as it is to all others.

Today the African Union is at the forefront of the continent’s collective efforts to achieve Africa’s development goals.

Dr. Dlamini Zuma,

The world of work is undergoing tremendous transformation as I have outlined in my report to Conference. These realities and trends will have repercussions in Africa as elsewhere and several themes are pertinent to the agenda of Pan Africanism and the African Renaissance.

I note for example the following priority areas that you have identified:

  • Investing in your people so that all Africa’s children – girls and boys – will have a better future;
  • Focusing on small, medium and micro enterprises, rural development and industrialization to meet the challenge of job creation, especially for youth, and the challenge of overcoming poverty;
  • Tackling rising social inequalities;
  • Empowering women; and
  • Promoting solidarity and integration.

As the ILO embarks on a process of renewal and reform, we ourselves have identified areas of critical importance in our own future work which I believe correspond very strongly with the needs and priorities of Africa.

We would be honoured to put our work in these areas at the service of the African Renaissance. Past collaboration between the ILO and institutions of the African Union brings, I believe a lot of relevant experience. I think, for example of:

  • Poverty elimination. The ILO actively contributed to the AU’s First Extraordinary Summit on Employment and Poverty Reduction held in Ouagadougou in 2004. On the road to Ouagadougou+10 next year, the ILO stands ready to intensify its cooperation with our African member States and with the AU Commission to further advance our common goals.
  • Youth employment – in this region with the youngest population in the world we have worked together to make youth employment a political priority backed by an integrated policy agenda combining macroeconomic policies and active labour market policies. Africa can reap a demographic dividend but it means overcoming a serious jobs gap rapidly and collectively.
  • African private sector development, where our collaboration has covered areas such as women’s entrepreneurship, skill development, and promoting economic diversification; and not least
  • Fostering social protection, the realization of labour rights and encouraging social dialogue.

Dr. Dlamini Zuma,

An important part of the contemporary narrative in Africa is assertiveness, energy, dynamism and creativity. We have no doubt that as the Africa Agenda 2063 takes shape, you will be bringing enormous energy to the effort of transforming Africa’s economic, social and cultural paradigm and realizing the vision of a prosperous and peaceful continent.

You have spoken of the need for Africa “... to reclaim the African narrative, the narrative of your past, present and future and to tell your own stories.” And we are honoured that you have chosen to come to the ILO today to continue telling the story of your continent.

I cannot close without saying that today our thoughts are also with President Mandela. We send him all our best wishes and as we look to the future, let us heed his words:

“Let there be justice for all
Let there be peace for all
Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all.”

Dr Dlamini Zuma, We look forward to hearing from you. We welcome you again.

Thank you.