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By Michael Oche

African Regional Organisation of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Africa) has said that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) offers immense potential for job creation, industrialisation, and sustainable development for the continent, but cautioned that it must prioritises the welfare of African workers and safeguards their rights.

“Finding decent, well-paid employment is one of the main challenges faced by workers in Africa,” Kwasi Adu-Amankwah, ITUC-Africa General Secretary, said in a statement to commemorate the 2023 Africa Day celebration.

The theme of this year’s celebration is, “Acceleration of African Continental Free Trade Area implementation.”

ITUC-Africa said in implementing the AfCFTA, there is a need for a people-centred approach that ensures fair and just working conditions, social protection, and respect for labour rights.

Africa Day is celebrated every May 25 and is aimed at celebrating and acknowledging the successes of the OAU since its inception. It symbolises Africa’s unity, commitment to peace, democracy, and economic development.

ITUC-Africa said as part of the 2023 commemoration, it is celebrating the remarkable and modest achievements of the continent and reflecting on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

It said “AfCFTA represents a historic milestone in our economic integration, prosperity, and self-determination journey.

However, we must acknowledge the challenges that lie ahead, notably the nexus between trade and decent work and the free movement of persons. It is crucial that the AfCFTA implementation process prioritises the welfare of African workers and safeguards their rights.

“We urge African governments, regional economic communities, and all stakeholders to adopt measures that promote decent work, inclusive development, and sustainable industrialisation. This requires investments in skills development, technology transfer, infrastructure, and the establishment of robust social protection systems that leave no one behind.”

The regional body also urged African governments to urgently take steps to ratify, domesticate, apply and enforce Africa free movement Protocol.

Currently, only four countries have ratified the Protocol.

“the African Union Commission recognises the linkage between the free movement of people and economic integration. It acknowledges that enabling the movement of workers within the African continent promotes economic diversification, enhances productivity, and creates opportunities for entrepreneurship and innovation. This realisation informs the rationale for adopting the Protocol to the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community Relating to Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Right of Establishment,” the ITUC-Africa statement explained.

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