Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday challenged African labor organizations to play a leading role in the ongoing efforts towards the full integration of the continent.
Kenyatta said African trade unions must also contend with a new type of market-place, in which globalization and advancements in technology mean that every nation must jealously guard its own competitive advantage.
“As we usher in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) under the auspices of the African Union, we must begin laying the groundwork for even closer cooperation and integration in Africa,” he said during the official opening of the 42nd General Council of the Organization of Africa Trade Union Unity (OATUU) in Nairobi.
Kenyatta said the continent’s labor organizations must also be at the forefront of advocating for the free movement of goods, persons, labor and capital across our entire African continent.
He asked the leadership of the labor organizations to help build bridges of unity and pan-Africanism, saying that is the surest path to national and continental peace and prosperity.
The week-long OATUU meeting brought together 73 affiliate unions representing all the 54 African countries.
Kenyatta said it was disheartening to see Africans lose lives crossing the Mediterranean Sea to seek opportunities because the continent cannot come together and grow its own prosperity that would provide them employment and a future of hope.
“Let us work together for our unity. I truly believe that Kenya does not have the answer but I do believe that together with our African brothers and sisters we can find the answer and the solutions if we come together. We are not each other’s enemy. We must learn that our solidarity, our collaboration is our prosperity and our future,” said Kenyatta.
He said his administration is leading by example in the promotion of free movement of goods, persons, labor and capital not just in the region but the entire continent adding that Kenya has eliminated barriers for East Africans who wish to work in the country.
“The People of Kenya understand that immigrant labor of our African brothers and sisters adds rather than lessens our prosperity,” the president said.
He called on labor organizations to promote a stable labor market and cordial industrial relations on the continent saying that enables nations to foster local business as well as attract foreign investment far better than when there are never-ending cycles of industrial action and antagonism.
Kenyatta appealed to trade unions to be considerate when demanding for higher remuneration saying inordinate increases in wages and staff costs are often the motivators for businesses to exit from African countries thereby denying people the much needed jobs.
He recommitted Kenya’s support to OATUU through an annual grant of 20 million shillings (200,000 U.S. dollars) to advance the organization’s integration agenda. Enditem