Linda Eroke writes on the Ouagadougou Extraordinary Summit of the Heads of State and Governments of the Africa Union's AU) proposal for new policies and programmes on employment and poverty alleviation for the region
In recent years, the attention of the African leaders has been caught by the social unrest that has characterised most countries in the region as leaders are struggling to offer clear path of political stability and economic growth for their present and future generations.
In particular, the job crisis in the region has intensified the political tensions and adversely affected economic growth. Indeed, statistics by the international Labour Organisation (ILO) revealed that unemployment in the African region remains the highest in the world at least two percentage points above rates observed in the developed economies and the EU region that have experienced serious deterioration during the crisis.
According to the international labour body 10 to 12 million young Africans search for jobs every year.
It is sad to note that unemployment, underemployment and poverty rates, particularly among the youths and women have remained at unacceptable levels. These have hampered social cohesion and inclusive development, reduced speed of growth, enlarged inequalities and threatened political stability in the region.
Of more concern is the fact that Africa has the lowest productivity performance, which has affected its competitiveness and ability to achieve inclusive growth, combat marginalisation and eradicate poverty.
This is despite the fact that the continent is endowed with natural resources shared by many countries and which opens up opportunities for continental resourced skills development initiatives.
There are reports that in the last two decades Africa experienced sustainable and high growth rates with rates of return on foreign investment higher than any other developing regions but that did not translate into proportionate job creation.
It is against this background that the African Union (AU) in collaboration with the ILO is set to hold an Extraordinary Summit on Employment, Poverty Eradication and Inclusive Growth in September 2014 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
Dubbed “Ouagadougou +10”, the Extraordinary Summit of the Heads of State and Governments of the AU will aim to catalyse action by governments, employers and workers, as well as regional and international stakeholders, for new commitments and contributions that will help Africa shift towards a concrete roadmap for the decade 2014-2024.
It will also review the progress made and the challenges faced in implementing the 2004 Ouagadougou Declaration and Plan of Action on Employment and Poverty Alleviation.
The Plan of Action is proposing a revised policy framework for the next decade on labour, employment and social protection. Ouagadougou +10 Summit is also aiming at concrete, time-bound and results-oriented actions with strong partnership.
The objective of the “Ouagadougou +10” Summit is not only to make a comprehensive review of progress and constraints in the implementation of the 2004 Ouagadougou Declaration and Plan of Action but also propose and adopt new policies and programs on employment, poverty eradication and inclusive growth for sustainable development.
Job creation a priority
Ten years later, the African Union Extraordinary Summit would take place in September 2014 to give a renewed impetus to the fight against unemployment, poverty and jobless-growth in Africa.
At a tripartite information session on “Ouagadougou + 10” held at the ongoing International Labour Conference (ILC) in Geneva, Switzerland, the ILO Director General, Guy Ryder called for a strong commitment from African leaders to job creation.
He said Africa needs to create18 million jobs every year to tackle unemployment in the region stressing that high levels of youth unemployment and inequalities call for more pro-employment policies to promote job-rich growth in Africa’s development.
Ryder observed that the region’s growth has increased significantly over the past decade but it has not translated into job creation and poverty reduction.
Informality and vulnerable employment remained the reality for the vast majority of young workers in Africa, according to ILO estimates, a total of 214 million working poor living in the region.
Ouagadougou +10 is therefore a priority for the Organisation,” the ILO Director General, said. He added: “Our role is to support African countries in partnership with the African Union and the strong mobilisation of the tripartite constituents.
“The multi-faceted challenge for the region is to make sure that the economic growth is sustained and better shared, while efforts are geared toward effective follow-up and accountability in the implementation of the Ouagadougou+10 process."
Speaking also at the session, AU Commissioner for Social Affairs, Mustapha Kaloko, said the theme of the summit, “Povery Eradication and Inclusive Development” is very apt as it aims to eradicate poverty through broad access to decent employment.
Acknowledging the acceleration of widespread labour migration within the continent and its significant contribution to development and poverty eradication through skills enhancement and remittances, the AU commissioner said Africa is pushing for economic transformation through all inclusive growth and development.
He said the summit is expected to throw more light on social protection, labour migration, youth and women employment and a draft follow up mechanism to monitor the implementation of policies.
According to him, social protection has become a challenge in the world of work in Africa noting that a large percentage of those not covered by social protection are concentrated in the informal economy and rural sector.
He said the AU is mindful of the weaknesses of the labour market institutions, in particular in the areas of social security, social dialogue, labour market information, placement services; and acknowledged the need to strengthen and modernise the labour market institutions with the view to align them with the Union’s genda and support the implementation of its objectives.
He said the AU is committed to speed up the promotion of decent work in the informal economy and rural sector and address the link between poverty eradication, decent work, social protection and inclusive growth.
Speaking further, he said most countries have made employment generation a priority agenda noting that they have set up programmes to boost employment generation.
“After 10 years, we have learnt a lot in terms of new approach that has been brought to the bare. We call upon Members States, as well as partners to think and do things differently,” said Kaloko, inviting the ILO and other partners to play a more active role in implementing the Ouagadougou Plan of Action 2014 and Africa’s economic transformation agenda.
The Plan of Action, he said is proposing a revised policy framework for the next decade on labour, employment and social protection adding that the Ouagadougou +10 Summit is also aiming at concrete, time-bound and results-oriented actions with strong partnership.
African leaders, he said are expected not only to make a comprehensive review of progress and constraints in the implementation of the 2004 Ouagadougou Declaration and Plan of Action but also propose and adopt new policies and programs on employment, poverty eradication and inclusive growth for sustainable development.
However, observers in the labour industry are deeply concerned that the previous commitments made by development partners in global forums relating to new and additional resource allocation, debt relief and cancellation, increased Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows and harmonised Official Development Assistance (ODA) have not been fully met.
They recognised that while the current process of globalisation presents both challenges and opportunities for Africa, it has so far marginalised the continent in a manner that exacerbates problems of poverty, unemployment, underemployment, indebtedness and vulnerability as well as lack of competitiveness.