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Cablegate: Usau: African Labor and Social Affairs Leaders

VZCZCXRO6346
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMA RUEHMR RUEHPA RUEHRN RUEHTRO
DE RUEHDS #2423 2820715
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 090715Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6442
INFO RUEHZO/AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS

UNCLAS ADDIS ABABA 002423

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR AF/EPS, AF/RSA, AND DRL (YETKEN)
STATE ALSO PASS TO USAID/AFR

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL ELAB ECON AU
SUBJECT: USAU: AFRICAN LABOR AND SOCIAL AFFAIRS LEADERS
DISCUSS GLOBAL CRISIS

1. (U) On October 1, U.S. Mission to the African Union (USAU)
Ambassador Michael Battle, A/DCM, and PolOff attended the
Seventh Ordinary Session of the African Union Labor and
Social Affairs Commission held at AU headquarters in Addis
Ababa. The conference theme was "Impact of the Global Crisis
on Employment and Labor Markets in Africa." Held annually,
this year's meeting aimed to give AU member states, Regional
Economic Communities, and partners a forum to discuss current
challenges in employment, labor, and migration.

2. (U) Representatives of the Pan-African Employers'
Confederation (PEC), the International Labor Organization
(ILO), and the Economic Community of West African States
(ECOWAS) made statements at the opening session. Noting the
conference theme, representatives spoke about the negative
effect of the world financial crisis on Africa, particularly
given the continent's dependence on outside sources of
revenue, such as tourism, remittances, and development
assistance. Several speakers mentioned the steep increase in
unemployment with a loss of four million jobs in Africa,
affecting mostly women and youth. The OATUU speaker urged
Africans to use the crisis as an opportunity to shift to a
people-centered paradigm that addresses basic needs first.
The ECOWAS representative spoke of the need to implement
skills acquisition programs to help reduce unemployment.

3. (U) Vincent Joel Kibwana of Tanzania also gave remarks as
the representative of the previous Labor and Social Affairs
Commission Chairperson. He reiterated the negative impact of
the global economic downturn in Africa, and listed several
measures "to inject dynamism into the economy." These
included cutting interest rates on short-term loans;
promoting agriculture, construction and small-to-medium
enterprises; improving the legal and fiscal environment;
establishing funds to create and preserve jobs in certain
sectors (for example, textiles); and using microfinance to
develop labor-intensive opportunities. He also noted that
accountability, democratic oversight, transparency and
responsibility were key to correcting systemic market
failures. Furthermore, Kibwana emphasized that the crisis is
not an excuse to lower standards and destroy jobs. On the
contrary, international labor standards should be guaranteed.

4. (U) In a press conference following the opening ceremony,
AU Commissioner for Social Affairs Bience Gawanas said she
expected the Commission to pass resolutions on the promotion
of the informal economy, migration, and productivity. The
draft report of the Experts' Meeting, however, reveals that
few resolutions were adopted. Many recommendations emerged,
though they tended not to be concrete or easily actionable.
Informal sector recommendations, for example, included
conducting debates on social protection and medical
insurance, highlighting links between informal and formal
economies, and improving data on the informal economy. While
the global crisis was a stated theme, it received equal
attention to other agenda items.

5. (SBU) Comment: USAU came away with the impression that the
Labor and Social Affairs Commission session involved a lot of
dialogue and reference to past initiatives, but was more of
an opportunity for participants to share experiences than to
devise specific steps to improve employment conditions and
the labor market in Africa. End Comment.
MUSHINGI

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