GENEVA (ILO News) - The ILO has decided to launch two new projects to support employment generation in Africa. In conjunction with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UN-ECA), the ILO will initiate programmes to help improve formulation of employment policies and to facilitate the creation of small and micro-enterprises throughout the continent.
Conceived in the framework of the UN System-wide Special Initiative on Africa, launched today in New York, these programmes will seek to ensure that employment generation is given central importance in African macroeconomic policies and that smaller enterprises realise their job creation potential.
The projects will be funded from the ILO's own resources.
"The pattern of economic growth should be conducive to employment generation. It is important therefore that employment and manpower concerns be linked with overall economic policies, particularly relating to the development and utilisation of human resources," says Mary Chinery-Hesse, ILO Deputy Director-General for Development and Technical Cooperation.
The ILO and UN-ECA will cooperate with African Governments as well as employers and workers' organizations to increase their ability to formulate employment generation policies at the national, regional and local levels.
Assistance will take various forms, including: training and advisory services on policy formulation, strengthening of the statistical basis for verifying and altering labour market policies, and developing training and employment-intensive schemes for youth, women and unemployed high school and university graduates.
Small and micro-enterprises are expected to be among the main beneficiaries from improved employment and labour market policies. An ILO report Endnote1 prepared for the 1997 International Labour Conference estimates that 61% of the African labour force outside agriculture is employed in micro-enterprises. Very small enterprises are defined by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as having less than 20 employees, while small enterprises have between 20 and 99 employees.
The ILO will assist African Governments in preparing national action plans to support the informal sector. Elements of these action plans include establishing a more business-friendly administrative, fiscal and legal framework, expanding training opportunities and promoting access to credit.
"Examples from South-East Asia have shown that with the right types of policies and institutional support, the informal sector can expand and develop to generate large numbers of productive and remunerative jobs in micro-enterprises and self-employment activities which have strong production and marketing linkages with the formal sector," Chinery-Hesse says.
In cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the ILO has also recently launched a complementary poverty reduction initiative in Africa. Dubbed "Jobs for Africa", this programme aims to help national policy makers and planners to integrate employment considerations into mainstream economic planning. Advisory services are being established in several Sub-Saharan countries to assist in the development of employment creation strategies and to promote investment policies which are conducive to sustainable employment-intensive growth.
ILO assistance programmes in Africa are implemented through a network of 13 Area offices - with headquarters in Abidjan - and five multi-disciplinary teams. These teams deliver technical guidance on policy issues and development programme design. Most include advisers on employers' and workers' activities and specialists in international labour standards. The five teams, each with regional responsibilities, are based, respectively, in Abidjan, Addis Ababa, Cairo, Dakar and Harare.
International Labour Conference, 85th Session, 1997. Report V(1): General conditions to stimulate job creation in small and medium-sized enterprises. ISBN 92-2-109892-3, International Labour Office, Geneva, 1995.