Uganda has been elected as the new Bureau for the African Union (AU’s) Specialized Committee on Social Development, Labour and Employment, a position that accords the country a higher profile in running the sectoral affairs at the African Body.

The leadership tenure spans two years.

The Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development, Hon. Amongi Betty Ongom, on behalf of Uganda, assumed the seat on Thursday during the 4th Ordinary Session of the committee held at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 

The committee, which reports directly to the AU’s Executive Council, is charged with promoting and developing cooperation amongst African countries in the field of social protection, labour, employment, productivity and poverty alleviation.

It also reviews and harmonises Member States’ policies and legislation, and coordinates Common African Positions to advance African interests, promote tripartism and freedom of association, collective bargaining and decent work.

The committee further reviews and assesses progress made by Member States and Regional Economic Communities in implementing the various instruments and policies that advance social protection.

In her inaugural speech, Hon. Amongi called for a critical review of sectors that have been most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and how African economies can realize post COVID-19 recovery through focusing on Social Development, Labour and Employment.

“Unless we push harder to establish safety nets in form of social protection, social security, and stimulus economic packages, among others, to build resilience through establishing cushioning mechanisms, our economies will be harshly bruised by the economic downsizing,” The Minister noted.

She added that unless reviewed and remedied, Africa’s large informal economies would suffer significant job losses in specific sectors like tourism, the creatives, and hospitality due to inherent fragility.

“Furthermore, both exports and imports will decline, affecting the potential of trade to support the growth process, thus affecting the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). As you are aware, currently, the continent is already struggling with under and unemployment.” She observed.

“It is clear that if we do not undertake the above interventions to address the identified challenges, there is a likelihood of increased crime rates, insecurity and instability on the continent.” She said.

She called for social dialogue at all levels as a key tool for developing and implementing sustainable solutions that are tailor-made to unique realities of the domains of Social Development, Labour and Employment.

Hon. Amongi underscored that importance of the tripartite structure – the government representatives, – the Employers and – the Workers – as a key driver for solid partnerships.

She commended the outgoing Bureau for the Committee and requested for support to the Ugandan Bureau.

She also congratulated the next Director-General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Mr Gilbert Houngbo from Togo, who takes office in October 2022. He will become the first African to head the organization since its establishment 103 years ago.

The Minister was accompanied to Ethiopia by the Commissioner Equity and Rights at the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Mr. Mujuni Bernard and the Assistant Commissioner Employment Services, Mr. Milton Turyasiima.

The meeting was conducted under the theme: “Building Forward Better Wellbeing and Living Standards in Africa”.