Uhuru fights for free movement of labor across Africa

President Uhuru Kenyatta flanked by Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli. [Edward Kiplimo/Standard]
President Uhuru Kenyatta has urged African labour unions to promote free movement of labour, goods and capital across Africa.

Speaking yesterday during a labour conference in Nairobi, Uhuru said his administration had eliminated Non-Tariff barriers between Kenya and other East African countries.

He said only such an effort could promote free trade in the region. The President asked labour leaders to promote Pan-Africanism, which he said was the only sure way for continental prosperity.

“It is very sad and disheartening to see our sons and daughters lose lives while crossing the Mediterranean and get humiliated in foreign lands because Africans cannot come together and create opportunities for the future,” said Uhuru.

“We are not rivals. We must learn that our solidarity will bring prosperity.”

Rising xenophobia

He was addressing the 42nd General Council of the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (Oatuu).

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He announced that in support of Oatuu initiatives, the Kenyan Government would donate an annual grant of Sh20million to the organization.

Commenting on the recent xenophobic attacks in some African countries, Uhuru said Kenyans understand migrant labour empowers rather than inhibit economic success.

“Kenyans understand that businesses and investments from our African brothers and sisters within our borders bring vibrancy and vitality to our economy.”

“At the same time, it brings opportunities for Kenyans to economically enhance themselves.”

Uhuru said rising cost of living and low prices of goods was driving foreign investors from Africa.

Workers’ wages

Cotu Chairman Francis Atwoli said President Kenyatta should try and improve the wages of Kenyan workers.

“Next labour day, we are looking forward to his excellency taking measures to adjust the minimum wage bill to the level that will better the welfare of workers,” said Mr Atwoli.

Uhuru said for workers’ wages to increase, trade unions must ensure industrial unrest is non-existent.

“A stable market where industrial relations are cordial, will allow African nations to strengthen local businesses and attract foreign investment. Industrial antagonism is bad for business,” Uhuru said.

He noted that in order to achieve cordial industrial relations, dialogue between employers and trade unions must be driven by realistic expectations.

“The balance between employers and employees needs must be struck so that labour unions can be effective,” Uhuru said.

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African labour unionsfree movement of labour