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27 FEBRUARY 2019

Chairperson of ARLAC Governing Council, Honourable Minister Dr. Sekai Nzenza;

My colleague and dear sister Minister for Labour and host of this meeting, Minister Mildred Oliphant and the Deputy of Minister Inkosi Holomisa;

Ministers of ARLAC Member and Observer Countries;

Deputy Ministers of ARLAC Member Countries;

ILO Regional Director for Africa, Cynthia Samuel-Olonjuwon;

Leadership of the business, government and other constituencies;

Executive Director of ARLAC, Dr Patrick Nalare;

Senior officials here present;

Distinguished Guests; and

Ladies and Gentlemen.


I wish to extend our heartfelt gratitude to the organisers for inviting us to this 45th ARLAC Governing Council Meeting for Labour, Employment, and Manpower Ministers in English Speaking Africa.


I also wish to take this opportunity to welcome all of you, especially those who have travelled from all the corners of our beautiful continent to this coast of Kwa Dukuza.  This Municipality we are in is named the iLembe Municipality, named after King Shak aka Senzangakhona.  In this part of the Eastern Sea Board the sun shines for most parts of the year, I would therefore encourage you to take time, after the meeting, and in the future to enjoy it with your families.


Just to wet your appetite, this is the home of the most pristine beaches including the world famous Dolphin Coast and King Shaka's Rock, where history tells us that King Shaka trained his most trusted generals and soldiers and also dispersed of his enemies especially those who came from the North of our Continent.  It is, indeed, a site that marks our resistance and triumph against colonialism.  Not far from here King Cetywayo defeated the mighty British Army in the battle of Isandlwana.  Not far from here, are also the homes of John Langalibalele Dube, the first President of Africa's oldest liberation movement, the African National Congress.  This municipality is also one of the homes of iNkosi Albert Luthuli, Africa's first Nobel Peace Laurent and just next door to this municipality is also the temporary home of India's foremost liberator Mahatma Ghandi. 


It is also befitting that you chose this locality for your gathering as it is a short hop to the site where we launched the African Union in 2002.  From that site you will see the World Cup iconic stadium named after one of our most decorated internationalist, trade unionist, freedom fighter and hero of our struggle, one Moses Mabhida.


All these, and many other heritage sites throughout our continent; are common symbols and monuments of the many centuries of resistance and ongoing struggles towards “an integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena"


Our common heritage includes many other sites across the continent:

  • The island of Gorèe in Senegal (which served as a slavery sending post),

  • Aaapravasi Ghat in the Port of St Louis (where the British “great experiment" was undertaken with indentured labourers) and

  • The Great Monuments of Axum in the region of Tigray (which marks the site of the most powerful state in the world between the 1st and 13th Century).

  • Or the great Monumotapa Kingdom in Zimbabwe.

In fact every household, village, town and city on our continent serves as a reminder and monument of our resilient spirit of endurance and triumph.  These monuments are our common heritage, which accounts for our aspirations to unite.


In the words of our founding father Kwame Nkrumah “We must unite or perish".  These words are still relevant today.


Programme Director, we therefore see the African Regional Labour Administration Centre (ARLAC), as well as CRADAT (for French Speaking Africa) and ACLAE (for Arabic speaking Africa) as a pragmatic expression of our goal towards regional integration.  We see these institutions as important building blocks towards a strong and cohesive region.​

Over and above that, Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want, aspires for continent wide actions and programmes “based on the ideals of Pan Africanism and the vision of Africa's Renaissance".  Consequently, we must explore mechanisms to facilitate for collaboration and joint action between these three labour administrative centres. 


In this regard, the fora, instruments and institutions available to the African Union (AU), such as the revamped Specialised Technical Committee on Social Development, Labour and Employment as well as the voluntary African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), can play a facilitative role in realising a common approach to programming for labour related issues. 


Honourable Ministers, in formulating our positions, we must be forward looking whilst taking into account the rapidly changing world in the context of the fourth industrial revolution, which is now upon us.  Growing inequality as shown by the fact that the poorest half of the population controls less than 10% of the wealth[1], implies that ordinary worker are taking home far less pay, relative to managers and business owners, worldwide.


In every dark cloud there is a silver lining.  With Africa having the world's most youthful population with 70% of its population being under 35 years of age, and the vast majority of Africans still living in poverty we have the opportunity to leapfrog our development into the fourth industrial revolution in a more just, appropriate and labour intensive manner.


We need to unleash the creativity of our young people.


With its mandate to provide training and related research at all levels of labour administration, ARLAC and its sister institutions are best positioned to advise and shape Africa's fourth industrialisation Agenda.  These institutions, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the AU are at the centre of our skills revolution. 


Collectively, they have the task to research as well as train and equip our people for the future of work.  In our context that needs to bring about a more equal society with decent, meaningful and productive work.


It is therefore befitting that this meeting of the ARLAC Labour and Employment Ministers takes place a few weeks after the 32nd Ordinary Session of Assembly of the African Union. The Session paid focussed attention to the issues related to refugees and migration under the theme “Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced persons: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacements in Africa"


One key revelation of the summit is that certain dominant narratives need to change in relation to African migration.  For instance, a study conducted by Afro Barometer revealed that 64% of Africans do not wish to emigrate, and that in the remaining 36% most of those who have considered leaving their country really wish to relocate to another country in Africa.  These findings support the data from the UN which also suggests that many migrants, both economic and humanitarian, often remain in their immediate region.


However, given the relatively high unemployment rates and underdevelopment in our economies, intra African labour migration attracts heated debates and discussion.  This points to the need for leadership, joint actions and a common understanding on the matters related to migration in and beyond our continent.  In facilitating for these actions we will rely on institutions such as ARLAC to lead research that will provide empirical evidence about the impact of migration on labour markets of our countries.


The conducting of this research must provide policy and programmatic answers.  We must explore further inhibiting factors to labour movement and mechanisms by which there can be improved movement of goods and persons on our continent.  The AU Protocol to the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community Relating to Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Right of Establishment, as discussed by the recent AU Summit is an important entry point.  In this regard, we take this opportunity to encourage the Member and Observer Member States of the ARLAC to ensure that the decision to implement the African Passport, is implemented so that we can facilitate for trade and people-to-people interactions.


Honourable Ministers, indeed our destinies as nations of this continent are intertwined and require all of us to act as one.  It is therefore encouraging that following the launch of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), at the last count less than five states had not signed the Continental Free Trade Agreement.  We are now moving closer to the required number of 22 ratifications for the instrument to come into force.


This trade agreement, which brings into effect the largest trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), creates a common market with free movement for the whole continent. Once it comes to effect, the Agreement will cover a market of about 1.2 billion people and a gross domestic product (GDP) of U$D2.5 trillion, across all 55 Member States of the African Union.


The AfCFTA will also reverse and address the phenomenon of imperfect information and the nature of knowledge generation and sharing, in which ARLAC, has an instrumental role. Thus enabling a more rapid industrialisation which will assist African countries to move up the global value chains by relying less on commodities.


Indeed, the time for Africans to take matters into their own hands is now. It is time that we end the practice of sending unprocessed minerals to bolster economies of other regions of the world, with every ounce of raw material exported abroad goes hundreds of jobs which could change the lives of our people. We are therefore called upon to utilise the untapped potential of trade between and amongst African countries, which is estimated at about 18% of total exports. This is appalling considering that this figure stands at 69% in Europe, 59% in Asia and 31% in North America.  We will therefore require diversified economies and the specialisation of our regions, through centres of excellence.


This centres will also have the obligation to develop and maintain appropriate labour standards.  Thus the research work done by the ILO and ARLAC on decent work and labour standards needs to find programmatic expression in the work of the African Union and its Member States.


For instance, you have talked about joint inspections so as to guard against regional inequality in pay and conditions of work, this must find expression. We must facilitate for skills portability across our continent, thus the standardisation of knowledge acquisition and skills development practices and qualifications is absolutely critical.  To this end collaboration with the African Union University and its five campuses is also critical.


Honourable ministers, this Forum will conclude its work tomorrow with a High Level Symposium on Violence and Harassment in the Work Place.  We believe that this matter should in reality not have been confined to the margins of this gathering, but should have in fact taken up a more prominent place in all the discussions on the continent.


Nonetheless, we have found that the statistics related to sexual harassment and Gender Based Violence in the work place and beyond are scanty and are far from our realities.  For instance, an online research conducted by a private research agency, recently showed that only 30% of working women have been victims of unwanted sexual advances from managers and about 57% of working women have been victims of unwanted advances from their peers.[2] Astonishingly 47% of men also claimed that they were victims of unwanted advances. 


Clearly we need better data gathering and analysis which will require that we put in place better gathering and monitoring mechanisms in our member states through the support of institutions such as ARLAC.


We all know that the difficulties, particularly women face in reporting instances of sexual harassment and our news media and social media instruments often carry with them certain biases against the survivors.  Our news/media is seldom talking about the scourge of Gender Based Violence, unless it is certain high profile cases.  The survivors are often the ones who receive the most media scrutiny and are left to the court of public opinion with the burden of proof.


The perpetrators and harassers are usually spared the lifestyle and character assassinations which are often directed at the survivors thus leaving lifelong scars long after the sensational headlines are forgotten.


We must find practical ways to address the scourge especially at the work place.  The time for resolutions and pledges is behind us we will need practical responses and programmes, which we believe that the Ministers of ARLAC are well positioned to develop, especially as it relates to the workplace.  



We are looking forward to your discussions and the solutions you will present to us which we hope will be developed in conjunction with the private sectors, employers, trade unions and the workers themselves.  We believe that if successfully implemented in the workplace these programmes would serve as important anchors towards a societal wide response.


Honourable Ministers, the addressing of development, trade, investment, and gender based violence will require appropriately capacitated and progressive African States.  We therefore cannot overemphasize the ARLAC mandate to capacitate officials in our respective countries with the skills and knowledge which are necessary for the jobs of the future. 


This forum should also advise Member States so as to ensure that they are ahead of the curve. All our member states are in urgent need of the consultancy and advisory services, as well as informational resources related to labour administration matters offered by ARLAC.  Therefore, the labour administration training presented by ARLAC has to move away from inward-looking topics and prepare our institutions for a rapidly changing environment.  As one Barbara Jordan puts it, “For all of its uncertainty, we cannot flee the future."


The Future of Work and its meaning for jobs, skills, and wages imply that they are likely to be amplified with the advent of the continent-wide common market.  Ewe need to face it hols


We must utilise labour administrations as a tool for development through the promotion and safeguarding of decent employment within Member Countries.


In undertaking this task we must remain aware that the ILO remains the primary international body that promotes labour rights, however its present practices indicate that trade agreements, both at bilateral and multilateral levels, tend to increasingly incorporate measures relating to labour standards and or the cross-border movement of workers. Thus the ILO has a responsibility to ensure that issues of decent work permeate all our agreements whilst also mitigating the negative effects of shifting trade patterns on employment wages and levels.  We must also support the development of common legislative instruments for fair labour practices and the localisation of production, through the ILO.


Thus, the emphasis of ARLAC should be about assisting its member countries to navigate this difficult journey. In that journey South Africa remains committed to supporting the work of this important institution for collective action and regional integration.


With those words I wish to conclude by wishing you fruitful discussions and deliberations, on behalf of the Government and the people of South Africa. We look forward to the outcomes of your deliberations and we commit to support our Minister of Labour should she need additional support in executing your agreements.


Asante Sana!!


[2] Columinate Research Agency, Sexual Harassment Report, August 2018 reported in 31 August 2018

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