Building a Stronger African Trade Union Movement: The Trade Union Leadership Development Academy (TULDA)

Keywords : Newsletters Organising And Workers Empowerment - Trade Union Unity

The relevance of workers’ education was evident in organised labour’s struggles against the neoliberal onslaughts, including the struggle to reclaim constitutional democracy and strive for popular participatory democracy. The new millennium brought with it the acceleration and intensification of technological advances - innovation, invention and digitalisation that continue to change the nature of the world of work by the diverse gains, opportunities, and challenges they bring. The challenge of demography and climate change on account of uncontrolled and harmful human activities on the environment and their effects on jobs, living, and well-being remain daunting.

In the ever-evolving world of work, the need for educated, committed, and visionary leaders has never been greater. Recognizing this imperative, the International Trade Union Confederation - Africa (ITUC-Africa) has embarked on a transformative journey with the Trade Union Leadership Development Academy (TULDA). This visionary program is designed to empower young men and women members, activists, and leaders within African trade unions, igniting a renewed spirit of working-class consciousness for positive change.

From 11-15 September 2023 (online phase) and 02-06 October 2023 (residential phase), ITUC-Africa organised the 3rd edition of the Trade Union Leadership Development Academy (TULDA). Around 30 participants, including 15 Anglophones and 15 Francophones, through a competitive process. These participants, comprising trade union officials, leaders, activists, and workers, represent a wide range of ages, trade union backgrounds, and digital literacy levels. This diversity enriches the program by bringing together varied experiences and perspectives. This dynamic program is strategically designed to equip participants with the knowledge and skills required to address the challenges facing African trade unions effectively.

At the heart of TULDA’s mission are three core objectives :

1. Building an African Trade Union Cadre: By nurturing young leaders, TULDA ensures the sustainability of the African trade union movement. These leaders will play a pivotal role in guiding the movement forward.

2. Enhancing Understanding of Political and Economic Dynamics: TULDA empowers the working class to comprehend both regional and global political and economic dynamics, equipping them to advocate for workers’ rights more effectively.

3. Strengthening African Working-Class Solidarity: The program fosters solidarity and collective action among African workers, a critical element in countering the neoliberal agenda that often prevails in the global economy.

The TULDA employs a diverse range of learning methods, blending theory and practice. The curriculum includes lectures, group discussions, and interactive activities designed to evaluate participants’ mastery of the subjects covered. This hands-on approach ensures that graduates are not only well-versed in theory but also capable of applying their knowledge effectively.

The program is structured around five modules, each addressing a crucial aspect of trade union leadership:
Module 1: African Labour Movement - History of Trade Unions and Popular Struggles: Understanding the past is essential for shaping the future of the African labor movement.

Module 2: The African Political Economy: Equipping leaders with insights into the political and economic dynamics that impact African workers.

Module 3: Contemporary and Emerging Issues: Preparing leaders to address current and future challenges in the labor landscape.

Module 4: Sustainable Trade Union Movement Building: Promoting strategies for building and maintaining strong, resilient trade unions.

Module 5 : International Labour Organisation - ILO: Fostering an understanding of international labor standards and advocacy.

The inception of TULDA in December 2021 marked a crucial step towards reshaping the African trade union landscape. With 25 participants from across Africa, the pilot program set the stage for what would become a catalyst for change. Building on the success of its first edition, the second TULDA program, held in December 2022 with 23 participants, reinforced the notion that empowering leaders at all levels is essential to drive the African working class towards a brighter future. And this third edition of TULDA continues to embody the spirit of transformation.

Trade union education is the overall strategic instrument that allows workers collectively to realise their capacities in promoting, defending, and enhancing their interests. At the same time, it provides an avenue to analyse its position vis-à-vis the social, economic, and geopolitical situation surrounding its environment and the workplace. Labour education reaffirms the identity of the organisation while at the same time upholding its main objectives. And the ITUC-Africa Leadership development academy is paving the way for a revitalized and empowered African working class.

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