Strengthening Trade Union Engagement to Tackle the Challenges of Sovereign Debt in Africa

Dakar, Senegal – August 28-29, 2023
Keywords : ILLICIT FINANCIAL FLOWS - “STOP THE BLEEDING” Newsletters Senegal Structural Transformation For Africa’s Development

In a pivotal gathering aimed at addressing one of Africa’s most pressing economic challenges, trade union leaders from across the continent have convened in Dakar, Senegal, for a two-day Continental Workshop on Sovereign Debt. Organized jointly by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), and ITUC-Africa, the workshop focuses on the theme "Strengthening Trade Union Engagement to Tackle the Challenges of Sovereign Debt in Africa."

The lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have sent shockwaves through global economies, disrupting supply chains, and intensifying vulnerabilities. The conflict in Ukraine has further disrupted essential supply chains, casting a shadow over the availability of key goods such as food, fuel, and agricultural inputs. Concurrently, interest rate hikes have catalyzed a developing country debt crisis, raising the specter of defaults and prolonged economic stagnation across many nations.
“Without doubt, one of the important challenges and development priorities on our continent today is undoubtedly the sovereign debt sustainability and the broader issue of financing for development”. said Comrade Kwasi Adu-Amankwah, ITUC-Africa General Secretary, in his opening address.

At the heart of this workshop lies the conviction that the voices of trade unions are vital in shaping sustainable solutions to the mounting debt crisis. With their role as advocates for workers’ interests in policy dialogues with governments and employers, trade unions possess the capacity to influence economic decisions through collective actions. The consequences of mounting debt are felt acutely by workers, as austerity measures imposed by governments erode collective bargaining power, curtail workers’ rights, depress wages, and undermine public services, social protection, and security nets.

The workshop aspires to enhance the voice of African trade unions in addressing sovereign debt challenges. With a focus on knowledge enhancement, collaboration, and strategic planning, participants will delve into an array of thematic discussions, including:
  Sovereign Debt in the Current Context: A comprehensive analysis of the evolving landscape of sovereign debt and its implications for workers and economies in Africa.
  The Politics of Debt: An exploration of the political dynamics that influence sovereign debt management and negotiation processes.
  Impact on Workers and Trade Union Responses: Sharing experiences from African trade unions, this session underscores the effects of sustainable sovereign debt on workers and elucidates trade unions’ responses.
  Engaging with Key Stakeholders: Delving into strategies for building alliances with crucial actors in sovereign debt discussions, including international agencies and civil society organizations.
  Strategies for Trade Unions: Charting a course forward, this segment focuses on formulating effective strategies for trade unions to influence debt-related policies and decisions.
An essential feature of this workshop is its emphasis on collaborative, forward-looking action.

Recognizing the need for a coherent approach to sovereign debt, participants will explore avenues for improved coordination at national, regional, and international levels.
Especially for ITUC-Africa, the conclusions of this workshop will help the African trade union movement in its campaign on African sovereign debt which we will be launching on the sidelines of the 5th ITUC-Africa Congress in November in Nairobi, Kenya.
“I am also hopeful that our partners, in particular the FES, African Union Cooperation Office, will be mobilized and ready as always to accompany the labor movement in this process for a decisive transformation in the management and governance of debt in favor of development in Africa” . Added comrade Kwasi.

By enhancing awareness, fostering collaboration, and equipping trade unions with effective strategies, this gathering signifies a crucial step toward safeguarding workers’ rights and livelihoods in the face of mounting economic complexities.

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