Africa’s umbrella workers union, the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU), has commended the continent’s founding fathers and other leaders for their vision, sacrifice and contributions towards Africa’s socio-political and economic emancipation.
The congratulatory message is contained in a statement, endorsed by OATUU Secretary-General, Owei Lakanfa, on the golden jubilee celebrations of the Organisation of African Unity(OAU), now renamed the African Union (AU).
According to the statement, obtained by PANA here on Friday, the labour group also said the golden jubilee celebrations should be use as an opportunity for sober reflection on the state of affairs in Africa.
“African workers are proud of their founders who sacrificed to unite the continent and set out to liberate the peoples from the yoke of colonialism and apartheid, the shackles of economic slavery, and clear the path to all-round development, economic integration and political unity,” the statement said.
African leaders, civil society groups, non-governmental organisations, the private sector, youths, women groups and development partners are gathered in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, to mark the anniversary of the body which was founded in 1963.
The OAU was set up in 1963 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at the height of the cold war and colonial rule.
One of the main objectives of the body, which became AU in 2002, was political emancipation of the continent and 50 after, virtually all the countries have became independent.
The labour group noted that despite obtaining political freedom, the continent still faces several challenges, including mass unemployment, mass poverty, famine, insecurity, conflicts and terrorism, among others.
It added that though some international financial institutions have been applauding some of the economic progress recorded, this should be made to translate to concrete improvement in the living standards of the people.
According to the statement, “Africa has allowed the developed world to set agenda for it, this included the ruinous Structural Adjustment Programmes, trade liberalisation and jobless growth for too long.
“We need to conceptualise and set our own agenda that will primarily benefit the African people. While it is true that we live in a global village, but even villagers have their own peculiar needs. Unlike the developed parts of the world, we are yet to meet the basic needs of our people, and this we cannot leave to the so called market forces”.
OATUU urged African leaders to make education free and compulsory at least to senior high school level, saying that social benefits should also be introduced to all citizens in order to reduce abject poverty.
The union equally charged the AU on the needs to fast-track economic integration and redirect the continent from being a mere provider of primary commodities to one that adds value to its products; from being mere consumers, to being producers of finished goods.
It said: “The talk of Africa becoming prosperous in the next few decades due to ’emographic dividends’ is illusory. What we need is a well educated, innovative, knowledgeable and productive population, not one that will merely make up the statistics.
“Even in the worst of times when we had brain drain, it was because there were educated and knowledgeable brains to be drained. Industrialised countries like Britain and Japan, do not parade high-population figures,” the statement added.
On the challenges of funding the continental body, OATUU reiterates its call that the body should introduce an AU tax on air travels of US$5 for travels within the continent and US$20 for all intercontinental travels.
It said this will go a long way in solving the funding challenge, adding that there can never be any meaningful development when over 99% of AU programmes are funded by foreign donors.