REMARKS OF H.E. RAILA ODINGA; EGH, AT THE OPENING OF THE 42ND SESSION OF OATUU GENERAL COUNCIL;
20th September 2019
It is a great honour for me to join you at this important conference where you focus on advancing Social Justice, promoting decent work and evaluating the role of Trade Unions. As you are all aware, Kenya has a history with the Labour Movement both in Africa and globally. We have a history of established trade unionists who have made a mark across the globe and the current efforts led by brother Francis Atwoli follow this great and established tradition. We support his efforts.
This conference is taking place at a very trying and changing time in the world of labour and work in general. But it is also happening at a very hopeful moment for Africa. Africa is today one of the fastest-growing regions in the world. Our middle class is rising and is projected to grow to more than one billion consumers in the decades ahead.
It is happening partly because of our workers and the economic and political reforms we have pursued in the last two decades. We are also meeting at a time the Continent is prioritizing continental integration and trade as the key new drivers of economic growth as envisaged in the Africa 2063 agenda that we are all committed to.
That commitment is seen in the recent formation of the African Continental Free Trade Area and the new focus on intra Africa trade. The economic take-off we envisage will however not be realized without adequate attention to our workers and the work environment. It must therefore create more impetus for a deeper look into our world of work and the plight of our workers.
That means our workers will need an even stronger and louder voice in the coming decades. It means labour leaders will have to consistently remain on the frontlines of championing the interests and the concerns of the workers and ensure they live and work in dignity.
The challenges ahead call for greater collaboration between Africa’s labour movement and our government to address a number of issues. Our countries need to standardize rules governing the movement of workers; including issuance of work permits and treatment of migrant workers to avoid developments like those recently witnessed on the Continent.
We need to make it easier for our skilled workers to work in and for Africa. Today, partly because of low pay but also because of unclear rules governing acquisition of work permits, a number of our skilled workers find it easier to find work in the western world and only come back home to retire, if they ever return. We must reverse this trend.
Standardization of rules will also have to include reforms that help Africa trade more with itself so that we don’t have to keep looking overseas for trade and skilled labor. It is a challenge our labour leaders must consistently tackle by working in close consultations with our governments. When we trade more, we create work for our people.
Labour movements will also have to work with governments to ensure a speedy modernization of our customs and border crossings to make it easier for us to trade with each other, for workers to move from country to country and for investors to set up shop and provide jobs.
Clear rules of engagement will enable us see each other as partners rather than competitors in the grand plan to make Africa great and competitive.
Often, the unfortunate happenings of struggling Africans turning against fellow struggling Africans are never government policies.
Such happenings result from frustration with the inadequacy of our economies and the smallness of the ugali.
Such acts need to be condemned strongly and punished. However, rather than lead to condemnation of each other, withdrawal from and retaliation against nations where they occur, these acts should be reason for greater collaboration so that our nations are able to cook a bigger cake together. They should be reason for individual nations and regional economic communities to invest more in their economies and greater education of our people to be their brothers and sisters keepers.
Thank you all.
I wish you fruitful deliberations.