Libmonster ID: KZ-2221
Author(s) of the publication: L. M. SADOVSKAYA

L. M. SADOVSKAYA, Candidate of Historical Sciences Institute of Africa, Russian Academy of Sciences

Keywords: Africa, trade union movement, International Confederation of Labour, International Confederation of Labour-Africa, World Federation of Trade Unions, Organization of African Trade Union Unity

When forming trade unions in African countries, forms of organization, ideological attitudes, and means of influencing political power that were already tested in former metropolitan areas were usually used [1]. But in the early 1960s, after the declaration of independence of African states, the creation of national trade unions began. Thus, in May 1961, the All - African Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) was formed, which declared its independence from the international trade union centers, but at the same time declared its readiness to cooperate with the World Federation of Trade Unions. In contrast, the African Trade Union Conference, an association of national trade union centers affiliated to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), was established in Dakar in 1962 and the World Confederation of Labour (CGL). In 1973, a new pan - African trade union center, the Organization of African Trade Union Unity (OAPE), was formed, and later several other organizations whose activities are covered in this article.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and events in Eastern Europe could not but affect the socio-political development of African countries. Since the 1990s, the transformation of the trade union movement on the continent has begun in the direction of its politicization, associated with the reaction of trade unions both to global changes and to changes in the socio-economic and political life of individual African countries.

If in the 1970s most of the African trade unions formed alliances with the ruling and other parties "for national development", forming a "party-trade union" system*, then in the future there was a tendency to remove them from party structures.

Most of the trade unions have stopped cooperating with the ruling parties, which no longer enjoy the confidence of the population. This gap had negative consequences for many trade union centers. In Burundi, for example, the Government stopped funding trade unions. Strikes were banned in Cape Verde. In many former one-party States, which became multiparty in a relatively short period of time, trade unions began to move to the side of the opposition. There was a tendency to radicalize the trade union movement, which was facilitated by the deterioration of the economic situation and the emergence of political instability.

The demands for fiscal austerity and the introduction of multiparty system, voiced by international financial institutions, caused dissatisfaction with trade unions, and their influence on economic policy gradually increased. In response, the authorities resorted to reprisals and arrests of trade unionists in Sudan, Senegal, Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria and other countries. Unemployment and political instability contributed to the spread of armed conflicts and, as a result, led to a crisis of the trade union movement in almost the entire African continent.

Only the activities of trade unions operating in key sectors of the economy, such as transport, which had the potential to destabilize the situation in the country, inspired the ruling circles with fear and encouraged them to develop a strategy for cooperation with them. But in general, the African trade union movement in the late 1990s and early 2000s experienced a severe crisis and could not influence the change in the socio-economic situation of workers.

According to the Cameroonian researcher of the trade union movement in Africa, J. Marc Bicoc, the reason for this lies in the lack of training and low educational level of most trade union leaders. For many of them, the computer remains something unattainable, a real magic. One out of ten trade unionists has information resources, and only 0.05% of the total number of members of organizations use the Internet.-

* The strongest alliances between the State and trade unions were formed in Ghana under the regime of N. Nkrumah (1957-1967) and in Zambia under the regime of F. R. Tolkien. Chilube (1991-2001).

page 48
using the Internet [2]. 80% of union leaders ignore new technologies due to their advanced age.

A big problem remains the lack of funding, which is mainly carried out at the expense of membership fees. But in most African countries, they are not enough for the normal operation of trade union organizations, which need, in particular, to contact various experts and lawyers. Due to the lack of funds, trade unions are often forced to resort to hidden sources of funding provided by international trade unions, thus becoming dependent on them [3].

Many African vocational training centers continue to be negatively affected by the economic recovery programs introduced in the 1990s under the auspices of the IMF. The privatization of state-owned enterprises led to a reduction in the number of jobs, resulting in increased unemployment and widespread poverty, which in turn hindered the growth of solidarity and mutual assistance, which should be the basis of trade unions ' activities. This may partly explain the lack of truly independent trade unions at both the regional and continental levels.

Despite the fact that the number of trade union centers in Africa continues to grow, their effectiveness remains extremely weak, as lack of funds prevents the organization of strikes and other workers ' actions.


The decline in trade union activity in Africa is directly related to the crisis that engulfed the international trade union movement in the late XX-early XXI centuries. In the history of international syndicalism after the Second World War, there were both ups and downs of activity, splits and confrontations. This has led to a sharp decline in the influence of trade unions on the socio-political life of developed countries. This was partly due to the collapse of the USSR, structural changes in the labor market, economic liberalization, etc.The weakening of traditional ties between trade unions and their political allies, the social Democratic parties, was also important. As a result, there has been a reduction in the number of trade union members worldwide.

To overcome the crisis and strengthen the position of the international trade union movement in November 2006 in Vienna (Austria) A founding congress was held, which established the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). 1,700 delegates from 156 countries took part in this unique event for the international trade union movement. The ITUC replaced the defunct International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and the World Confederation of Labour (CGT), which operated all over the world and competed with each other*. ITUC covers 168 million people from 156 countries [4].

At the founding Congress in Vienna, it was decided to establish the Council of Global Trade Unions (CTU). This step was taken in response to the current situation in which industry and main trade unions worked independently of each other. The GTU consists of 10 Global Trade Union Federations (GFS), the ITUC and the Trade Union Advisory Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

It was planned to further institutionalize cooperation between the ITUC and the GPF, as well as merge all 10 GPF into one more efficient association.

Thanks to the merger of the ICSP and CGT, the organizational reform of the international trade union movement has begun, although the process has not yet been completed: it is necessary to merge regional organizations at the continental levels. At the ITUC Congress in Vienna, it was recommended that the constituent congresses of all regional divisions of the ITUC and CGT be held before the end of 2007.

The African regional Organization of the International Conference of Free Trade Unions (Afr-ICFTU) did so in November 2007, when an African regional organization, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC - Africa), was established. It brought together 88 trade union centers (14 million members) from 48 African countries [5]. Its headquarters are located in the capital of Togo-Lome. The President is Modi Giro, the Secretary - General is Quasi Adu-Amankwa.

Earlier, regional trade union centers were united in Europe as well. At the next ITUC Congress in Rome (March 2007), the Pan-European Regional Council of Trade Unions was established. For the first time, the forum raised the idea of merging the two main trade union structures in Africa: ITUC-Africa and OAPE. However, the issue of such a merger was put on the agenda only in 2012, in Togo, at a meeting of the ITUC-Africa General Council [6].

However, the unification of the two main African trade union centers is hindered by disagreements between their leaders. According to representatives of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation**, which is actively involved in the activities of African trade union centers, tensions arise from the desire of regional trade unions to use large-scale organizational reform in the international trade union movement in order to gain greater freedom of action in relations with central bodies. At the same time, the Brussels-based ITUC [7], like its predecessor, the ICSP, is seriously interested in-

* On October 31, 2006, the joint congress of ICSP and CGT in Vienna decided to disband these organizations.

** The Friedrich Ebert Foundation was founded in 1925 and supports public and trade union organizations.

page 49
The aim is to limit the independence of regional organizations in the use of funds and implementation of various projects [8].


The organization's activities are particularly effective in francophone countries such as Niger, Senegal, Togo and Cote d'Ivoire. ITUC-Africa branches here work closely with the French General Confederation of Labour (CGTF). Since 2010, WCTF has organized annual joint seminars for trade union leaders in African countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Chad and Togo).

In 2012, the ITUC-Africa General Council developed and approved an action plan for 2012-2015. It pays special attention to working among young people and promoting the activities of the trade union center in the media. Among the tasks is to help migrant workers who have become victims of xenophobia on the part of their work colleagues. The General Council promotes dialogue between different social groups at the national level. It is planned that ITUC-Africa representatives will be required to participate in the activities of the African Union (AU), in particular, in such AU structures as the Pan-African Parliament, the Commission on Human and Peoples ' Rights, the African Court of Human Rights, the Commission on Labor and Social Affairs, and the Economic, Social and Cultural Council [9].

The ITUC helps the African Regional Organization strengthen its links with the World Workers ' University and with trade union research scientists. For this purpose, seminars were held in Nairobi (April 2012) for 13 Anglophone countries and in Lomé (May 2010) for 20 francophone countries [10].

Of course, it is too early to sum up the results of the ITUC's activities, since only a few years have passed since the international trade union movement emerged from the crisis. But the leaders of the Confederation do not lose hope for joining those trade unions that previously stood apart from international trade union centers. They believe that their accession to the ITUC will strengthen the organization and make it even more representative. It is known that immediately after its establishment, the General Confederation of Labor of France joined it.

Nevertheless, the international trade union movement continues to weaken. There are several reasons for this.

Thus, while before the merger of the CGT and ICSP, a part of the left flank of the international trade union movement was influenced by European social democracy, now it remains depoliticized due to the loss of its former "purpose" by social democracy after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The concept of "social partnership", which was once widespread in the world trade union movement, including in African countries, has now become obsolete. It emerged after the Second World War, when trade unions held strong positions and entrepreneurs were ready to make serious concessions. However, this period is long over. Entrepreneurs simply abandoned this partnership. The depoliticization of the leading international trade union organizations effectively deprived the workers of a common and integral political picture of the world, i.e., the democratic ideas about the world that existed in the trade union movement even before the Second World War. However, a number of industry-specific international trade union federations still have them. For example, those that are members of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU).


Some political scientists ask themselves: is there a "second coming" of the WWF? And this is due to the activation of its influence in Africa. In South Africa, for example, four industry unions - members of the ITUC's leading national trade union center, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) - have joined the WFTU and are now pressuring the entire Congress to follow suit as a single organization.

In his address to the XI COSATU National Congress in May 2012, WWF Secretary General Georgios Mavrikos, who was present at it, called the World Federation of Trade Unions open to all, democratic, and aimed at uniting all workers of the world on the basis of common goals [11].

ITUC General Secretary Sharon Barrow, who was present at the congress, decided not to go to the confrontation with this international trade union center when faced with the fact that many COSATU members are in favor of joining the WWF. In her speech, she mentioned the ITUC's cooperation with workers from China, Vietnam, and Cuba. In this case, Sh. Barrow overlooked the fact that the Confederation does not cooperate with workers in these countries, but only with state-controlled trade union leaders. [12] Stating that the ITUC strives for the unity of the international trade union movement, "uniting all the workers of the world" [13], S. Barrow nevertheless noted the fundamental differences between the two international trade unions. In her opinion, this "divergence is not at all in her commitment to communism or socialism", since she is "proud of her left-wing views", but "in her attitude to the popular Arab revolutions", in particular, to the situation in Syria [14]. S. Barrow suggested that "the time will come when, regardless of the situation in Syria, the situation in Syria will be different." on a handful of dictators, it will be possible to fight together " [15].

G. Mavrikos, General Secretary of the WFTU, in turn, questioned the possibility of combining the WFTU and the ITUC. In his opinion, "workers should

page 50
to realize that these organizations have completely different historical roots, different strategies and different goals, they have different ideological and theoretical bases "[16].

Overall, according to the Director of the Global Labour Institute (based in Geneva) Dana Galina, over the past 10 years, the WWF has managed to gain some popularity (especially in South Africa), having managed to present itself as a kind of "International of the South" in contrast to the ITUC, which is dominated by trade unions of the "North" [17].

In reality, the process of globalization has actually blurred the border between the "South"and the "North". The type of social relations in the labor and trade union movement that was previously characteristic of the " South "is now found in the" North", and the peculiar enclaves of the" North " are found in the geographical south.

According to Dan Galin, " the MKP itself largely contributed to the growth of the WFTU's influence, leaving a huge political niche on the left flank unoccupied. The price paid for the merger of the ICSP and the CGT was the destruction of the last remnants of the social-democratic policy that still existed in the ICSP at that time. The ITUC, which emerged as a result of the merger, is now floating like a bureaucratic bubble, and no clear political line can be traced in its activities "[18].

As for the WFTU, it has also undergone significant changes over the past 10 years. At the XV Congress in 2005 in Havana, its delegates elected G. Mavrikos, the leader of the Greek All - Work Fighting Front, as Secretary General. In January 2006, the WWF moved its secretariat, which had been inactive for more than 15 years in Prague, to Athens.

In recent years, the WFTU has been providing continuous support to the trade union movement in Africa. It has organized dozens of seminars and classes for members of African trade unions. Representatives of the Federation visited many African countries. The WWF organizes conferences in the European Parliament on issues affecting Africa. As a result of this activity, dozens of African trade union organizations decided to join the WWF. 37 countries of the continent participated in its meeting in February 2013 in Khartoum with the participation of the Secretary General of Mauritius. The WWF regional Office is located in Johannesburg, South Africa.

However, the Federation is concerned about the inaction of the regional office for Francophone Africa. After discussing this issue at the 16th WWF World Congress in Athens, it was decided to move him to Gabon.

The activities of this international organization in 2013 were marked by resistance to the policies of the IMF, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization. According to WWF experts, it was these structures that pushed African countries to privatize and contributed to the plundering of the continent's resources by international corporations.

The WWF suggested that demonstrations should be held on October 3 - "Pan-African Action Day", and on May 25 - "Africa Day".

It is planned to open a Permanent Trade Union School-the WWF Education Center in cooperation with the Federation of Egyptian Trade Unions - to study the history of the international and African trade union movement [19].

During 2013, training seminars for trade union activists were organized in Gabon (March), Uganda (June); on agricultural issues - in Rwanda (September); on poverty eradication - in Nigeria (October) [20].

Starting in 2014, the WWF intends to launch a campaign to prepare for the celebration of the 70th anniversary of its organization in 2015. In particular, it is planned to publish a book dedicated to the anniversary [21].

1. For more information about the historical features of the formation of the trade union movement in African countries, see: Trade Unions of West Africa, Moscow, 1964. (Profsouzy stran Zapadnoi Afriki. M., 1964) (in Russian); Trade unions of North and North-East Africa, Moscow, 1965. (Profsouzy stran Severnoi i Severe-Vostochnoi Afriki. M., 1965) (in Russian); Lebedeva E. E. The political role of trade unions in West Africa. Moscow, 1974. (Lebedeva E. E. Politicheskaya rol profsouzov Zapadnoi Afriki. M., 1974) (in Russian); Sadovskaya L. M. Social Reformism in Africa. Ideological penetration into the labor and trade union movement, Moscow, 1984. (Sadovskaya L. M. Sozial-reformizm v Afrike. Ideologicheskoe proniknovenie v rabochee i profsouznoe dvizhenie. M., 1984) (in Russian); Denisova T. S. Zapadnaya Afrika. Trade Unions and Power, Moscow, 1993 (Denisova T. S. Zapadnaya Afrika. Profsouzy i vlast. M., 1993) (in Russian)

2. Jean-Marc Brikoko. Le syndicalisme a la croisee des chemins. 50 ans apres le debut des independences en Afrique. P., L'Harmattan. 2012. P. 121.

3. Ibid. P. 119.


5. http://www.ituc-africa-org/Qui-Sommes-Nous.html

6. http://www.ituc-africa-org/CONCLUSION/de-la-REUNION-DL

7. At the next ITUC Congress in Vancouver (June 2010), Sharon Barrow, Chair of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, who previously served as Chair of the ITUC, was elected as its General Secretary-http:/

8. %82%D1%80

9. http://www.ituc-africa-org/CONCLUSION/de-la-REUNION-DL

10. http:/www/ _syndicats_Africains_I


12. 18303

13. Ibidem.

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid.


17. Ibidem.

18. Ibid.

19. Ibid.

20. Ibid.

21. Ibid.


Asia and Africa Today, # 8.31 August 2014
Pages 48-51


Permanent link to this publication:

Similar publications: LKazakhstan LWorld Y G


Қазақстан ЖелідеContacts and other materials (articles, photo, files etc)

Author's official page at Libmonster:

Find other author's materials at: Libmonster (all the World)GoogleYandex

Permanent link for scientific papers (for citations):

L. M. SADOVSKAYA, TRADE UNIONS IN AFRICA: INTERNATIONAL AND REGIONAL CONTACTS // Astana: Digital Library of Kazakhstan (BIBLIO.KZ). Updated: 08.11.2023. URL: (date of access: 14.07.2024).

Found source (search robot):

Publication author(s) - L. M. SADOVSKAYA:

L. M. SADOVSKAYA → other publications, search: Libmonster KazakhstanLibmonster WorldGoogleYandex


Reviews of professional authors
Order by: 
Per page: 
  • There are no comments yet
Қазақстан Желіде
Астана, Kazakhstan
202 views rating
08.11.2023 (249 days ago)
0 subscribers
0 votes

New publications:

Popular with readers:

News from other countries:

BIBLIO.KZ - Digital Library of Kazakhstan

Create your author's collection of articles, books, author's works, biographies, photographic documents, files. Save forever your author's legacy in digital form. Click here to register as an author.
Library Partners


Editorial Contacts
Chat for Authors: KZ LIVE: We are in social networks:

About · News · For Advertisers

Digital Library of Kazakhstan ® All rights reserved.
2017-2024, BIBLIO.KZ is a part of Libmonster, international library network (open map)
Keeping the heritage of Kazakhstan


US-Great Britain Sweden Serbia
Russia Belarus Ukraine Kazakhstan Moldova Tajikistan Estonia Russia-2 Belarus-2

Create and store your author's collection at Libmonster: articles, books, studies. Libmonster will spread your heritage all over the world (through a network of affiliates, partner libraries, search engines, social networks). You will be able to share a link to your profile with colleagues, students, readers and other interested parties, in order to acquaint them with your copyright heritage. Once you register, you have more than 100 tools at your disposal to build your own author collection. It's free: it was, it is, and it always will be.

Download app for Android