On 21st March 2018, in Kigali, a critical moment in Africa’s regional economic integration agenda was reached when forty-four (44) African countries signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement alias the AfCFTA. As a flagship program, the AfCFTA responds to the AU Agenda 2063 aspirations 1, 6 and 7, which aim to ‘attain a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development, an Africa whose development is people-driven, relying on the potential of African people, especially its women and youth and an Africa that is a strong, united, resilient and an influential global player and partner’. This agreement is expected to lead to the creation of a single African market for goods and services, facilitate the long-awaited free movement of people, mobilize regional investments and be the necessary building impetus towards the establishment of a Continental Customs Union.
The AfCFTA is a hybrid Agreement- concluded protocols on Trade in Goods and Protocol on Trade in services. Work remains to be done in both areas before the Agreement can be operational. The yet-to-be negotiated protocols are on investment, competition, intellectual property, and electronic commerce.
Many stakeholders raised issues with the defective and exclusionary processes of the AfCFTA. The negotiations, by design and set up, were led by only the members states with limited participation of trade unions, the private sector, NGOs, academia.
Trade unions are interested in continental integration and creation of an African market that will address the needs of the people and workers. But they are concerned to ensure that AfCFTA contributes to this. The reality is that unions are interested in how the AfCFTA will create decent jobs for the teaming young people in Africa. They are also interested in intervening in the processes to ensure that interests of labour- intensive manufacturing and agriculture are secured. For unions, clarity around the nature and type of mechanisms to be put in place to guarantee basic labour rights such as the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining across countries as well as decent work standards is crucial.
It is therefore against this background that CESTRAR with the support of the International Trade Union Confederation -ITUC-Africa Organized a workshop on the theme “African Trade Union Agenda and Effective Participation in Trade and Investment Processes’