Building capacity to help Africa trade better

2018 Meeting of SADC Ministers for Employment and Labour and Social Partners


2018 Meeting of SADC Ministers for Employment and Labour and Social Partners

2018 Meeting of SADC Ministers for Employment and Labour and Social Partners
Photo credit: GCIS

Report of the Outgoing Chair (South Africa)

The past year has been challenging for the SADC-ELS and equally the Troika. Our starting point was to examine and introduce new ways of working starting by enhancing the architecture of our agenda in the manner that was not only solid in terms of SADC priorities and international commitments, but also designed in such a way that it began to revive our sector and its role.

In this regard, the Republic of South Africa introduced the theme for its presidency as; “Horizon Decent Work: Advancing Coherence, Connectivity and Inclusivity”. The notion of Decent Work Ladies and Gentlemen, underpins all what we wanted to achieve during our tenure as Chair of the sector. In order to make it as practical as possible, supporting priorities were formulated to enhance what was intended with the selected theme.

To deliver on our mandate, we developed a set of activities and action plans on which we gave reports of how we were doing within extremely tight timeframes. It is no secret that we had to overcome certain structural hurdles along the way, including performing additional tasks. We are extremely indebted to those Member-States who walked with us every step of the way.

I would not attempt to cover all the details of the work that we have done during this period, instead I will give a broad brush account of key activities covering key achievements and one or two challenges that confronted us.

I would also touch on a couple of initiatives that we believe could enhance the functioning of the institution and move towards strengthening our structures for the purposes of making it more inclusive and better able to serve its members. Also worthy of mentioning, are the efforts to enhance cooperation with other work streams within SADC and other multi-state bodies in the implementation of our programme, with a view to enhance harmonious labour regulation framework in the region.

Key achievements

The 37th Ordinary SADC Summit in August 2017 began to chart the way forward for the regional body under the Chairship of South Africa. Our Principals met in Johannesburg, South Africa under the theme: “Partnering with the private sector in developing industry and value chains”, with a lot of emphasis on industrialisation as a catalyst to grow our respective economies, and creating sustainable jobs. You will note that this work took its cue from key tenets of the SADC Charter.

It is safe, therefore, to point out that our Chairship was not divorced from the broad SADC agenda and priorities, as well as from the resolutions taken in Swaziland just under a year ago. As endorsed by the Ministers in Swaziland, that the Troika should convene to ensure a proper hand over to the incoming chair; the three members of the Troika met three times during this term, in Gaborone, East London and Cape Town. The engagements in the Troika meetings focused on various strategic issues including ensuring a seamless transition from the sitting Chairperson to the next. The Troika sessions were also key in ensuring the success of the two technical meetings and the ministerial meetings preparations. In this regard, we recognise the commitment of Botswana, Swaziland and Namibia, and also thank them sincerely for their contributions and support.

It is pleasing and reassuring that creating decent work and ensuring that our countries are ready for the workplace of the future, underpinned everything we did in the period under review.

In pursuit of the objectives of the sector, the South African chairmanship sought to build on the results of previous meetings and relevant international frameworks, notably the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Programme (RISDP), the African Union Agenda 2063 and the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. From this, we drove an agenda using policy priorities informed by the Future of Work and Decent Work, namely: Promotion of Decent Work; Employment Creation; Youth Unemployment; and SMME Development.

In this regard, two senior officials’ meetings and/or the SADC Joint Tripartite Technical Meetings and one ministerial meeting plus six workshops, were held. The workshops sought to implement previous resolutions and dealt with bottlenecks that were frustrating implementation. This work also covered various topics in furtherance of different elements of SADC priorities, including transition from informal to formal economy, public employment services, dispute prevention and resolution, labour inspection and enforcement, international labour standards, and portability of social protection benefits.

Flowing from this, Member States committed, in line with Article 4 of the SADC Charter of Fundamental Social Rights, to establish three regional forums on public employment services; dispute prevention an, resolution labour inspection and enforcement. It was agreed that these forums would meet on a yearly basis to engage on issues of common interest and to share experiences and knowledge, with the hope of improving labour market regulation systems in our respective jurisdictions.

This is obviously some of the work that the incoming Chairperson will have to pick up going forward and moderate in which-ever way necessary.

Operational challenges

The biggest challenge we faced was the lack of capacity, support and visibility of the SADC Secretariat. It is noteworthy that it is the first time in this session that the sector is graced by the presence of a senior representative of the Executive Secretariat. The support of the Executive Secretariat is a matter that will require special attention from the Ministers in this sector. Without the consistent support of the SADC Secretariat in so far as providing effective support to member-states, our efforts may not yield the desired outcomes.

The incoming Chairperson will have to pay urgent attention to this aspect, otherwise all the efforts will be in vain. The Executive Secretariat will have to play its role if the sector is to succeed in its efforts. Perhaps the first step for the incoming chair will be to organize a bilateral meeting with the SADC Executive Secretariat to thrash out better ways of working together going forward.

Funding for the Sector is another huge challenge which needs critical assessment. We must thank the ILO (International Labour Organisation) for coming to our rescue when budgetary constraints threatened to collapse our work. Our honest assessment is that these challenges pose a real threat to the implementation of the decisions we take as this platform and getting the Sector to function optimally. Of course, we are not aware of the challenges if any, faced by other sectors, but it is our considered view that the matters outlined herein be raised with the Secretariat as a matter of priority. We hope that this meeting will also come out with some brilliant ideas of how to arrest these challenges.

Efforts to strengthen SADC-ELS processes

In the past, as you all aware, the reporting to the Ministers focused on the implementation of a number of frameworks and protocols that govern our sector, such as the RISDP, the SADC Youth Employment Policy Framework, the SADC Decent Work Protocol and so forth. However, we are of the view that this methodology needs some fine-tuning so that the efforts by Member States to implement these protocols are enhanced. We have a few suggestions that we want to put forward for consideration in this regard.

Firstly, an activity-based approach is required to facilitate implementation, not only of the SADC priorities, but also our international commitments as Member States. For the first time and as mentioned above, the Chair selected a broad theme and also identified priorities, both of which were supported by activities, in the form of workshops, in order to ensure that Ministerial decisions and SADC protocols were implemented. The decision by Member States to establish forums on labour inspections, public employment services and dispute prevention and resolution will, therefore, go a long way in expediting regional priorities in these selected areas.

Secondly, there is nothing stopping a Chair from creatively enhancing the programme for the year. In the case of South Africa, besides the workshops on labour inspections, public employment services and dispute prevention and resolution, we elected to venture into areas of capacity building, knowledge sharing and strengthening of institutions in our countries. As such, R204 and ILS were incorporated into our programme to assist Member States to focus their energies on employment creation and to solidify labour market regulation efforts.

In addition, the Ministerial Symposium focuses on enhancing the capacity of our Principals and creating an enabling environment to engage more comprehensively on topical issues which are relevant to the sector. For example this year’s symposium is on Decent Work in Global Supply Chains. The symposium present an update on the global developments on decent work in global supply chains, including the key findings of the 2016 ILC report. A symposium of this nature helps to give all of us a sense of the goings-on on this front and the complexities relating to this matter. The symposium also lifts lessons from which we can all learn.

Thirdly, to foster collaboration between and among member-states, cooperation between Member States, as far as labour employment and labour regulation issues are concerned, should enjoy prominence in SADC-ELS meetings. These may include more than the collaboration at ILO/ILC levels but also at bilateral and multilateral levels. This is to encourage Member States to build stronger relations amongst themselves with the long-term view of aggregation of this work at sectoral level.

For example, the tobacco issue, involving a few member countries, is quite important for the sustainability of economies, and thus employment.

In light of this, Member States should be allowed to table similar issues at the SADC-ELS level in order to craft joint interventions where necessary.

Fourthly, there should be more coordinated cooperation in the exchange of experiences on policy architecture, bearing in mind the sovereignty of each member state. Sharing information on how each state is dealing with inclusive growth, with a particular focus on health and employment, skills development and vocational training, as well as gender equality; reducing income inequalities, and promoting labour productivity, will be extremely useful going forward. This will also facilitate synchronisation of programmes of different sectors and contribute positively to the functioning of the SADC as a body.

The “silo-effect” or fragmentation in the work of the different sectors undermines the very purpose of SADC, which is fostering regional integration and collaboration between and among the countries. There has to be a strong synergy between and amongst the different sectors within SADC at least in terms of initiatives that are being pursued.

We want to offer the following as some of the recommendations that could be considered by the incoming chair; We recommend that;

  1. The traditional JTTS meetings should be enhanced through some of the interventions proposed above, particularly the work of the three approved forums; and a declaration at the end of the presidency to sum up resolutions of ministerial meetings. Furthermore, knowledge sharing and capacity-building efforts should be adopted as a standard way of ensuring that Member States are on par in terms of labour market administration systems, operational standards and laws;

  2. Member States to ratify key international labour standards and also to seriously consider taking the necessary steps to realise full implementation of such standards;

  3. The Ministers should consider finding long-lasting solutions to the operational challenges in the Secretariat;

  4. We continue to agitate for Gaborone to take this sector as seriously as it does other sectors in SADC. We must demand as we deserve the same attention and support from the Executive Secretariat that which it gives to the other sectors;

  5. We elevate our concerns to our respective countries’ Focal Points on SADC issues; in case of South Africa the Department of International Relations and Cooperation;

  6. The issues relating to the capacity of the Secretariat to attend to matters relating to our sector should be raised very sharply and possibly feature more prominently in the Summit documents including the Summit Declaration, and

  7. We stand ready to provide support within the context of the Troika, to work with the incoming chair, Namibia in this case, As well as other Member States in furthering the goals of the sector.

This Report is but a synopsis of our work both in terms of achievements and challenges of SADC ELS in the period under review, and does not purport to be a comprehensive account of all our activities.

We happily pass on the baton to Namibia as the incoming Chair and wish you all the best in your tenure. Once again we wish to give you our unreserved assurances that we will do everything humanly possible to support you.

Ministerial Declaration

Horizon Decent Work: Advancing Coherence, Connectivity and Inclusivity”

We, the SADC Ministers for Employment and Labour and Social Partners, having met in Cape Town on 1-2 March 2018, to contribute to an integrated future for the region, by exploring ways and approaches for fostering collaboration to reduce unemployment, inequality and poverty through employment policies that will facilitate inclusive economic growth for all Member States:

  1. Welcome the Union of the Comoros to the SADC family, as announced at the 37th Ordinary SADC Summit in August 2016, and commit to closely work together within the context of the SADC Employment and Labour Sector (SADC-ELS);

  2. In pursuance of regional integration and leveraging on synergies, seek to establish a conducive and harmonious labour market within the region;

  3. Pledge that in order to advance labour rights, connectivity, policy coherence and inclusivity, will continue promoting employment opportunities for our societies and economies that will benefit all our Member States and peoples of Southern Africa;

  4. Recognise that cooperation is key to regional integration in all spheres of labour market regulation within state and cross-state issues that underpin the SADC Decent Work Programme and commit to pursuing employment, fundamental principles and rights at work, social protection and social dialogue.

  5. Commit to creating an enabling environment for sustainable enterprises in the SADC region by providing conducive legal and regulatory environment, and political stability

  6. Commit to the institutionalisation of endeavours aimed at deepening our cooperation through the advancement of knowledge sharing and technical cooperation including tripartite forums for dispute prevention and resolution bodies/ agencies; labour inspection; and public employment services;

  7. Acknowledge on-going efforts geared towards enhancing the programme of the SADC-ELS such as the formalisation of the informal economy and portability of Social Security benefits taking into account the ILO Recommendation 204 and the Code on Social Security in SADC, respectively;

  8. Upholding the principle of inclusiveness, urge Member States to develop and implement inclusive employment policies, strategies and programmes that address the digital divide, rural-urban divide and ensure the participation of people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups.

  9. Commit to building on the results of previous meetings and relevant international frameworks, notably the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Programme (RISDP), African Union Agenda 2063 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

We hereby commit to the following policy priorities informed by the Future of Work:

Promotion of Decent Work

  1. In line with Article 4 of SADC Charter of Fundamental Social Rights and ILO’s Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, note the programme of action agreed at 2017 SADC ELS and endorse the recommendations for the establishment of tripartite regional forums on labour dispute resolution, labour inspection and public employment services, to deliberate on issues of mutual interest as well as to continue to share experiences and exchange information on best practices; and

  2. Approve the rules on the operation and functioning of the forums with specific emphasis on these being convened annually to consider priority issues of regional dimension.

Promoting Decent Work for sustainable Global Supply Chain

  1. In support of the 37th SADC summit’s theme: Partnering with the private sector in developing industry and value chains, which also covered labour migration issues, and a presentation of a compendium of SADC labour laws by the private sector;

  2. Recognize that value chains involve national and regional processes that facilitate investments with potential to increase manufacturing, diffusion of knowledge and technology, and local supplier linkages between Member States;

  3. Acknowledge that SADC’s international trade and investment flows have grown considerably over the last two decades, but integration into value chains remains low compared with other regions in the world;

  4. Further acknowledge the need to address the different decent work deficits associated with Global Supply Chain through collaborative global and regional actions;

  5. Work in conjunction with the ILO in increasing policy coherence amongst our Member States as well as in maximizing opportunities and addressing challenges in the promotion of decent work in global supply chains; and

  6. Undertake to explore the ratification of international labour standards and their full implementation to complement national legislations and other international commitments such as the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multi-National Enterprises (MNEs) and Social Policy of 2017 in order to address decent work issues in all work circumstances, including cross-border supply chains;

Portability of social security benefits

  1. Acknowledge the movement of citizens of our Member States across borders and the accompanying challenges including the portability of migrants’ social security benefits. SADC has taken some positive action in this regard and amongst others, the 1998 SADC Protocol on Facilitation of Movement of Persons in SADC is a standing commitment by the region in recognising that people will inevitably move from one country to another;

  2. Having adopted the SADC Cross-Border Portability of Social Security Benefits Policy Framework in May 2016, demonstrates our political commitment to make progress towards coordination, harmonization and integration of social protection systems in the region; and

  3. Commit to recognizing international standards pertaining to migrants and, more importantly, standards pertaining to the portability of benefits as well as extension of social protection to non-citizens who contribute to our respective economies through their labour.

Employment Creation

  1. Recognising the advent of technology has changed the manner in which organisations exchange information and how they share goods and services. Digitalisation has potential to change the face of the workplace of the future, at the same time it offers new opportunities that may be exploited for the benefit of our Member States;

  2. Bearing these realities in mind as well as the speed and depth of change which accompany technological revolution and digitalisation, potential to generate new demand in terms of adjustment of skills, agile social dialogue and adequate social protection provision, Member States need to direct their energies towards dealing with the resultant challenges, including issues pertaining to ‘decent work deficits’ by addressing labour market distortions; and

  3. Commit to creating an enabling environment for job creation and prepare our economies and the region for the future in line with the SADC priorities as contained in the SADC Decent Work Programme and the SADC Protocol on Employment and Labour; and

  4. Put in place employment promotion policies and build the capacity of governments, employers and workers organisations to meet these new challenges.

Youth Unemployment

  1. Recognising the challenge of unemployment and underemployment of youth and the need to adopt relevant policy interventions to stimulate employment and integration of youth in the labour markets;

  2. Recognising the relevance of priorities of Goal 8 of the SDGs, African Youth Charter of 2006, and the SADC Youth Employment Policy Framework for improving employment prospects of young people in Africa and the region, respectively. Our policy priorities will continue to facilitate transition from school to work, enhance the quality of employment for the youth through work readiness programmes;

  3. Building on our previous commitments, Member States must give priority to tackling youth unemployment in the region by implementing the SADC Youth Employment Policy Framework;

  4. Complementing this through developing coordinated policy and institutional frameworks that promote efficient and effective vocational training and education in the region and skills for the future of work; and

  5. Further, ensure that SADC Labour Market Information Systems are implemented to monitor, evaluate and report in order to contribute to the development of employment schemes.

SMME Development

  1. Recognise that a significant proportion of people work in the informal economy, which contributes between considerably to the region’s gross domestic product (GDP), excluding agriculture. As a result, the informal economy’s contribution to our economies plays a vital role in the overall long-term development objectives in the region. Policies and legislation are important in our endeavours aimed at creating a conducive, supportive environment for small, micro and medium enterprises (SMMEs) not only to thrive but also to enable them to formalize and to move up the value chain;

  2. Formalisation will create sustainable jobs and also address some of the problems associated with the informal economy. These include amongst others unemployment, underemployment, poverty, gender inequality, and lack of representation and precarious work;

  3. Reiterate our intent for Member States to adopt a regional approach to follow-up on the ILO Recommendation 204 on the transition from informal to formal economy in order to enhance the implementation of other regional strategic programmes and plans.

  4. Endorse the implementation of the ILO R204 informal economy support project in selected Member States focusing on reconciling and adapting, where relevant, policies and legislation in order to address decent work deficits in the informal economy.

Way Forward

  1. As SADC Ministers for Employment and Labour and Social Partners, we commit to implementing key strategic frameworks which include the SADC Decent Work Programme (2016-2019); SADC Employment and Labour Protocol; Revised Indicative Strategic Development Plan 2015-2020 (RISDP) and the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and roadmap (2015-2063);

  2. Continue our dialogue on the Future of Work and develop concrete policy actions taking into account the SADC RISDP priorities and the Industrialisation action plan;

  3. Further, reinforce our cooperation with other SADC sectors with regard to exchange and joint policy development on inclusive growth with a particular focus on health and employment, skills development and vocational training, gender equality, reducing income inequalities, promoting labour productivity and managing migration;

  4. Equally collaborate and influence as part of the Africa group, at the ILO on issues of common interest and pledge to strengthen this collaboration to further promote common objectives at other international fora;

  5. Commit to strengthen tripartism and social dialogue through guaranteeing freedom of association and collective bargaining especially in the private sector, public sector and informal sector;

  6. Reaffirm the position that ILO should continue its cooperation with the tobacco industry to promote decent work in the agricultural sector; and call upon Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia to champion this position.

  7. We appreciate the support provided by the ILO and IOM to the SADC Employment and Labour Sector. We look forward to continue our fruitful cooperation with them.

  8. We will present this Declaration to the SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government in Namibia through established SADC channels, for their consideration as they strive to advance coherence, connectivity and inclusivity in pursuit of regional integration.

  9. We thank the South African chairship in steering the meeting and other activities of the SADC ELS and look forward to our next meeting in 2019 under the chairship of the Republic of Namibia.


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