Trade unions emphasise the importance of SDG 8 at the 2022 African Regional Forum on Sustainable Development

Trade unions from across Africa engaged in the eighth session of the African Regional Forum on Sustainable Development (ARFSD), held on 3-5 March 2022 under the title Building forward better: A green, inclusive and resilient Africa poised to achieve the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063.

Throughout this meeting and the related parallel sessions, trade unions voiced their priorities on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) under review (SDG 4, 5, 14, 15 and 17), highlighting the importance of key elements of the Decent Work Agenda (SDG 8) for achieving them.

Eric Manzi, deputy general secretary of ITUC-Africa, represented trade unions at the ILO’s side event on Promoting decent work in the African cultural and creative economy. He acknowledged the importance of this sector and its fundamental contribution to society but highlighted that in Africa this sector is characterised by informal work with precarious conditions and lack or workers’ protection. He therefore insisted on the need for an integrated framework in line with SDG 8 to promote decent work in the cultural sector. This approach would require adequate recognition and formalisation of the sector to guarantee fundamental workers’ rights, ensure adequate representation and grant access to social security.

Trade union presence was also felt in the Major Groups and other Stakeholders (MGoS) workshop of the Forum where Thusang Butale, secretary general of the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions, intervened in a panel on achieving the SDGs during the COVID-19 pandemic and building forward better. Butale put forward the demands for a New Social Contract, highlighting the importance of SDG 8 and the role that governments must play in investing in sectors that grow the economy and create decent jobs while including measures for the formalisation of informal jobs. He further noted the importance of effectively engaging trade unions to achieve the SDGs.

Workers’ priorities were strongly reflected in the key messages that ensued from the MGoS workshop, which were presented at the Regional Forum.

Unions also participated in the different sessions of the ARFSD and their views were reflected in the key messages that ensued from the Forum. The outcome document included trade union demands on education and vocational training (SDG 4), strengthening social protection systems and addressing gender-based violence (SDG 5), increasing job creation while contributing to the fight against climate change and the sustainable management of forests and biodiversity (SDG 15) and strengthening domestic resource mobilisation, combating illicit financial flows and corruption (SDG 17).