Trade unions are important actors not only with regard to issues relating to the quality of work itself (across different countries). Trade unions are also called upon with respect to issues relating to social justice in all its facets and the establishment of social security systems. The biggest challenges facing trade union organisations without a doubt also include unemployment and the poverty issue relating to it, the previously mentioned dichotomy between the formal and informal sectors and labour migration, especially to Europe, but also particularly towards South Africa. These factors make the whole situation immensely more complicated, but at the same time mean considerable potential for political intervention for the trade union movement on the continent as a result of the very weak statehood that is often to be found there.
The debate over growth on the continent has been inextricably associated with the wide-ranging discussion about sustainable development for some time now. This is not a simple decision for a continent that has based its economic development thus far largely on the reckless exploitation of its minerals and raw materials. That is why there is an enormous challenge facing societies, national states and the economies of Africa when it comes to dealing with global demands for growth that is as climate and environmentally friendly as possible and the respective harnessing of opportunities offered by the green economy. Africa must face up to these issues both in global bodies as well as in the shaping of national and regional policy. Will it be possible to design structural transformation of the economy in such a manner so that broad-based growth is not inhibited? How can African countries that have been left behind economically be supported in a “green just transformation”?
Employees are directly affected by potential political and economic decisions. After all, these have a direct impact on national economies of individual states and transnational effects on entire economic zones. It is of existential importance for trade unions not to be side-lined as a whole as interest representatives of employees in the debates over green jobs, sustainable development and green just transformation; at stake is the future and structure of any and all labour markets and entire sectors of the economy. This is of special importance in those national economies which are in part dependent on raw materials. Further complicating matters is the woefully inadequate production and supply of energy on the continent – which is often cited as the main argument against political measures fostering a more sustainable type of growth.
The task at hand is to sensitise trade unions for the topics described at all levels – national, sub-regional and regional. The regional representation of the International Trade Union Congress (ITUC), ITUC Africa, already plays a salient role here, and this needs to be supported and expanded. The same goes for ITUC campaigns. The work strategy is rounded off by creating latitudes for action for trade unions and then empowering them to leverage these opportunities such as, for example, identifying and possibly entering into alliances with other (socio-)political actors.