Labour to African leaders: No industry, no sustainable jobs
By Victor Ahiuma-Young
FEW days ago affiliates of IndustriALL Global Union, African region, gathered in Abuja, Nigeria, to mark the 2017 Africa industrialization Day, AID. AID is an annual event declared by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, UNIDO, for governments, businesses and organized labour linked to industrial development to examine ways and means to stimulate African industrialization process.
The theme of this year’s event was “African Industrial Development: A Pre-condition for Effective and Sustainable Continental Free Trade Area.”
Ahead of the AID, and on November 17, as part of labour’s activities to mark the day, Nigerian Council of IndustriALL organized 6th Policy Dialogue focusing on the 4th Industrial Revolution: Implication for Africa.
Opportunities for economic diversification
The Policy Dialogue which attracted stakeholders and participants across the globe, including Brian Kohler, Director, Health, Safety and Sustainability, IndustriALL Global Union, Geneva, Switzerland, critically examined the opportunities for Africa to diversify its economy, promote mass decent employment with respect to workers’ rights within the context of digital/smart manufacturing.
However, addressing the gathering during the AID, Vice President, IndustriALL Global Union, African Region, Issa Aremu, noted that in Africa, promoting sustainable industrial policy assumed a special importance, because “Industry is a key driver of sustainable jobs and development for national economies and the foundation of good living standards.
“It does not matter whether it is the first industrial revolution, (Industry 1.0), Second Industrial Revolution (2.0) Third Industrial Revolution (Industry 3.0) or the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0), we as Africans must make what we wear (gold, rings and necklaces, clothes and textile), what we ride, (automobiles), what fuels our cars (petroleum products) what we build with (iron and steel), soaps we bathe with (chemicals and allied products) and generate energy we consume.
“We must stop exporting raw cottons, crude oil, mineral resources, gold and diamonds only to be importing finished goods from China, Europe and America. It does not matter whether it is small or medium scale enterprises, Africa must consume products it produces not imported or smuggled as is the case in Nigeria.”
According to him: “In 2015 Africa has as many as 1.2 billion populations. Millions of youths join the labour market annually. Only industry can provide sustainable jobs and living wages and necessary revenues for government to provide the needed infrastructure for development.
“For Africa to meet the Sustainable Development Goal 2030, especially SDG 9 dealing with industry and innovation our continent must innovate and industrialize. Africa should stop being romantic and applauding China by the uncritical importation of goods and services. Rather Africa must copy China’s industrialization drive which has within 20 years moved over 250 million people out of poverty through manufacturing and industrialization.
Africa must make what it consumes; otherwise it will be consumed by the rest of the world.
Economic recovery/growth plan
“Many African countries have robust documents and policies on industrialization and diversification, yet few existing industries are closing with mass job losses. It is time South Africa, Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, Zimbabwe; Sudan and others to walk/work the policies and add value to the continent’s abundant raw materials.
“Today we acknowledge and commend the Federal Government of Nigeria for launching the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan. Together with the existing National Industrial Revolution Plan, it can promote the revival of industries and the creation of mass decent jobs.”
Continuing, Aremu said: “There are scores of commendable initiates by African governments on promoting wealth generation and reviving the industry; such as Buy-Africa campaign in South Africa and Buy Made-in-Nigeria campaign.
Buy made in Nigeria
Vice President of Nigeria, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, has also signed three unprecedented Executive Orders mandating Government agencies to spend more of their budgets on locally produced goods and services. These orders would help in the recovery of many factories in Nigeria. Of special importance to the textile industry is the order mandating Government agencies to spend more of their budgets on locally produced goods. This singular order would help in the recovery of the textile and garment industry.
Our current budget is N7.3 trillion. The question is, are we to link this relatively high budget geared towards making people patronize made in Nigeria or refueling Chinese or Indian economies as we have been unacceptably doing? I think we can use this budget to turn the economy around. I am happy that a factory in Umuahia is now producing Military boots for soldiers and that alone has provided over 3000 jobs for Nigerians.”