Africa needs appropriate development policies to create decent work and put an end to poverty, President Jacob Zuma said on Tuesday.
“We need a coordinated effort to make this a priority,” he said in opening the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) 12th Africa regional meeting.
“The most effective weapon in campaigning against poverty is through the creation of decent work.”
The gathering, which ends on Friday, is taking place at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, under the theme “Empowering Africa’s People with Decent Work”.
He raised concern at the fact that the share of the world’s poor living in Africa had increased over the past two decades.
A 2010 report by the United Nations Development Programme suggested Africa would have to create 100-million productive jobs in order to reduce the number of working poor.
“To promote decent work, Africa will require coordinated policies that make employment the main priority,” said Zuma.
Decent work in Africa might seem like a pipe dream to many, given the history of slavery, neo-colonialisim and forced labour.
However, the continent was working to extricate itself from that painful legacy through the socio-economic blueprint, Zuma said.
“The continent is charting a new path of development and progress … the path should naturally not leave the African workers behind.”
Zuma warned that economic growth alone was unlikely to be sufficient to empower Africans through providing new job opportunities.
Many other complementary initiatives would be needed, he said.
These included supporting the informal sector and providing bridging programmes between the informal and formal sectors.
Social security, education and skills development should also be improved.
Unemployment, poverty and inequality were some of “the most pressing issues” in South Africa that needed to be tackled, said Zuma.
The South African government had partnered with labour, business and the community sector to achieve inclusive economic growth and development.
Zuma said the government’s new growth path framework would help boost growth and create jobs. The target was to create five million jobs by 2020.
Delegates to the ILO meeting include labour ministers from around the continent, led by South Africa’s Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant.
Oliphant reminded delegates that they were “messengers of hope” and must find solutions to better the lives of many Africans. — Sapa