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African Trade Unionists Angered By Globalisation, Speak Out

African Church Information Service, 10 June 2002

Nairobi—Economic globalisation is playing havoc on the lives of millions of Africans. Workers are increasingly displaced as the so-called free market economy encourages dumping of cheap goods. As a result, their traditional workplaces have been rendered out of business. Concerned African trade unionists gathered in Nairobi between May 27 and 29 toworkout a continental survival startegy. In this Special Report, Joyce Mulama narrates their anger, helplessness and hope.

Trade unionists have accused the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB) of being responsible for poverty in Afric

Kenya’s Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) Secretary General Francis Atwoli said donor aid conditions were dehumanising and amounted to slavery. He said they had crippled Africa’s economy.

Atwoli was speaking during the opening of a three day conference on The Challenges of Globalisation in Africa: The Role of The Trade Unions in Promoting Balanced Development held in Nairobi (May 27 - 29).

Donor communities led by IMF and World Bank pretend to be giving aid to African nations and in return expect payback with huge interests. For this reason, Africa spends all its finances paying off the interests while the actual sum stands, Atwoli said, adding that if he had his way, he would do away with IMF and World Bank.

Kenya’s Labour minister Joseph Ngutu concurred with Atwoli’s observations saying that since the adoption of donor policies, economic conditions in the continent had worsened.

He noted that an objective evaluation was needed on how these policies have been responsible for the sharp setbacks in debt servicing obligations of African countries and a rundown in basic infrastructure.

There is also need to review and replace these policies and programmes with alternative ones that are more socially relevant and specific to the peculiar conditions prevailing in our continent, he said.

Ngutu observed that there was need for donor organisations to consult with tripartite institutions, civil societies, development partners and other stakeholders when formulating policies such as the Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs), and Poverty Reduction Strategy Programmes (PRSPs).

Speaking about New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) which was adopted in October 2001 by African states, IMF’s Senior Resident Representative Samuel Itam confirmed his organisation’s support for the initiative saying IMF is seeking to assist NEPAD in anyway requested without being intrusive.

Itam who was addressing the regional conference that brought together100 participants representing 56 trade union organisations from 44 African countries said IMF was going to offer technical assistance to NEPAD and had decided to establish five regional technical assistance centres in Africa (AFRITACs).

Too often it is not lack of political will but lack of capacity that blocks progress in economic reform in our countries, he noted.