By Michael Oche
Newly elected General Secretary of the Regional Organisation of International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Africa), Comrade Akhator Joel Odigie has outlined some of his agenda for the labour movement in Africa.
Odigie takes over as General Secretary of the ITUC-AFRICA amdist changing world of work and at a critical moment where workers’ rights are being suppressed by governments across the continent.
“Our business is not to lament, but how we can contribute to moving the situation forward,” Odigie told journalists shortly after his emergence.
The world is moving into the fourth industrial revolution, and the new ITUC-Africa scribe says, “we don’t have the time to sit back.”
The theme of the 5th Ordinary Congress of ITUC-Africa, from where Odigie emerged was tagged Amka Afrika, a Swahili phrase meaning “Arise Afrika”
The continent has been held by debt burden, poverty, unemployment, and labour movement will be critical in the transformation process of the continent especially with the African Continental Free Trade Area implementation (AfCFTA) taking shape.
Odigie says, “AMKA Africa, which is the theme of this Year Congress, is a clarion call to action, solidarity and a collective mobilisation and forward movement. So we will be critical, deliberate, and consistent in pushing our people to walking together to ensuring the spaces for the attainment of a transformed Africa, a prosperous Africa that her prosperity can be shared.”
Workers across the continent will look to the leadership of the ITUC-Africa which represents the interest of 30 million with affiliates in 51 of the 54 African countries.
Odigie says, “We have so much mineral resources deposit in our continent, but we don’t contribute to the value addition, so we are going to look at how we can address that.
“We will through advocacy and mobilisation demand that our governments invest in research and development, skills, as well as capacity development for young people to be engaged.
“We are interested in issues of human and trade union rights, where we have falling back or lost ground, we want to reclaim the spaces. This is because Covid-19, has shown the increase of state power and the shrinking of human and trade union rights, as well as civil liberty opportunity and spaces.
“We want to reclaim and return them. We have been talking about addressing poverty in our continent, the question is about finances and potential. We are not just going to be asking for social protection, but working with our governments to pointing them the opportunities on how to attract resources to addressing social protection issues.
“That is why in this Congress , we have launched a debt campaign which we are going to push forward , our campaign on illicit financial flow would be link to this campaign going forward.
“I made a commitment on behalf of our members that in the next four years , we would attract four million new membetahip , so Organising is critical and central to it, but we would do so by making sure that our unions are attractive to people to join.
“Our focus will be on women and young people making them understand why union is attractive, We would go to campuses and even secondary schools to catch them young.
“Our work on migration continues, but much more so, we want to increase our activities on social protection and social dialogue . Understanding that the more we have the space to speak and bring our voices in addition to issues of workers , then we are in a better place to increasing the situation collectively .
“I talked about collaborating with the global south, our brothers and sisters outside Africa, we want to reconnect including the diaspora, moreso, we want to improve our solidarity work with unions, organisations and countries that need them .
“We talked about Western Sahara, Palestine , Cuba, Haiti, we would continue to do more collaborative work with them.”
Calls For Support
Odigie says he holds his emergence to God, noting that “for almost two weeks now, it been difficult sleeping even six hours. But here I am standing. It can only be God. And I know that this God that has brought us here will be able to take us far, together”.
The Nigerian says there is so much work to be done in the transformation process of the labour movement.
He says, “So for our members , we asked for your support and even those who believe in what we do, we ask that you continue to pray for us to do more.
“The structural deficit of Africa , we want to contribute more to structural transformation of Africa . In other words, how do we contribute more to make Africa part of the global chain.”