ILO African Staff Association

ILO Director-General’s welcome remarks to the President of the African Development Bank

Director-General’s welcome remarks on the occasion of the visit to the ILO of Dr Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank, to address the ILO African Staff Association.

Statement | Geneva | 22 November 2012
Distinguished guests,
Members of the ILO African Staff Association,

It is my honour and pleasure to welcome you, Dr Kaberuka, most warmly to the ILO.

And let me add my thanks to the ILO African Staff Association – and in particular John Sendanyoye for this initiative.

President Kaberuka – let me take you back to your own words a couple of days ago here in Geneva when you addressed the CEO gathering – you observed that meetings are sometimes seen as, and I quote, “events where minutes are meticulously kept but hours lost”.

Your visit is most certainly an exception to that aphorism and I am certain that the yield from your time with us will be great!

In your speech I noted that you highlighted the need to address the action deficit in Africa. This call can be applied more generally and I wholly endorse it.

Your presence with us is most timely.

The world of work – the ILO’s mandate is in crisis.

At this moment, when the Europe, in which the ILO was founded and where its values and action took root, is in crisis, Africa – like a number of other regions – is facing the present and looking forward towards the future through eyes somewhat different from those of the West.

We understand that Africa is not spared the impact of the global crisis in our interdependent global economy but,as you have observed there is a sense of real enthusiasm in your continent. This no doubt takes root in overall growth projections of more than 5 per cent this year and in the growing recognition of Africa’s rich potential as a source of growth.

At the same time, you have pointed out that one feature of the African landscape is strong economic growth coexisting side by side with great poverty and distressing exclusion – and that this is not, anywhere, an ingredient for sustainability. Nor, let me add, from an ILO perspective, of social justice.

No doubt today we will have your perspectives on this as you elaborate on the theme “Economic growth and employment prospects: Challenges for Africa in the era of global crisis”.

Your personal achievements in your own country, Rwanda,certainly nurtures hope that new ways forward can be found. You have been personally engaged in positive processes of change, cognizant not just of their economic and social imperatives but also their political significance. Equally important is your conviction that there is no inevitability of outcome, no fatalism – that policy options exist and opportunities too, and that they must be grasped. This is a message that the ILO has consistently underlined and shares with you.

The respective mandates of our two organizations have much in common, i.e. the ILO is dedicated to promoting economic growth with social justice through decent work, and the ADB mandate is to contribute to sustainable economic development and social progress.

We strongly believe in Africa’s potential and that the African Development Bank has a key role to play in shaping patterns of growth that will simultaneously yield decent and productive jobs nationally and regionally while also influencing the global agenda where Africa’s weight is felt in this respect. In emphasizing the importance of the regional dimension and the key role of the regional development banks, let me say that I had the opportunity to say to Dr Kaberuka that he has beaten me to it in terms of my visits to the regional banks. My first is to the Asian Development Bank next month when I am in that region. He has come here first before I could visit him!

Work is central to well-being stability and poverty – as was underlined in the recent World Bank Report on Jobs - and there is a need for urgent coordinated measures to promote employment and decent work that will bring these results.

I hope that your visit to the ILO today can mark yet another phase in our relationship in striving for these goals, building on the partnership that has grown out of the agreement signed in 1977 and renewed in 2004. We are already collaborating in a number of areas and I think there are other possibilities to deepen a strategic partnership.

I believe that popular participation is essential in achieving the outcomes our organizations are seeking. The complexities of the issues in many countries make this all the more necessary. If work is at the heart of our challenges then the voices of the world of work, of employers and workers through their representative organizations must be heard in shaping solutions.

Mr President, you are striving to shape African solutions while being open to the world. The ILO applies its universal values and pursues its action respectful of national and regional specificities. We have a great deal on which to build in responding to the aspirations of women and men for stability and well-being through opportunities for decent work.