A solidarity action by more than 1,000 workers on the streets of Lusaka, Zambia, last month highlighted an Africa-wide, worker-led campaign to address the consequences of mounting government debt and illicit financial flows.

“It is necessary for Africa’s debt to be canceled to stop the bleeding of African economies,” said Rose Omamo, deputy president of the International Trade Union Confederation-Africa and IndustriALL vice president, who helped deliver a petition to Zambia Labor and Social Security Minister Brenda Tambatamba March 21, 2024. Solidarity Center partner ITUC-Africa represents 17 million working men and women in 52 African countries.

Citing ”grave concerns” about borrowing governments’ lack of transparency in securing, using and managing loans, ITUC-Africa is calling for official and private creditors to restructure Africa’s debt to protect citizens’ access to vital social protection services such as education, health, pensions, infrastructure, sanitation and water.

Social protection is a key driver in the achievement of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Vision 2050, which includes among its five pillars sustainable development and social inclusion. Indeed, the Organization of Trade Unions of West Africa (OTUWA) is spearheading a subregional “Health Care Is A Human Right” campaign.

To further protect the continent’s citizens against resource grab, illicit financial flows—which include multinational tax dodging, government corruption and other criminal activity—must be curbed, say unions. Doing so could cut by almost half the $200 billion annual financing gap for achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, reports the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

An estimated $88.6 billion, equivalent to 3.7 percent of Africa’s GDP, is leaving the continent as illicit capital flight annually, according to UNCTAD’s Economic Development in Africa Report 2020.



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