Ramaphosa's call to protect jobs, small businesses

career seekers

As the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, African Union Chairperson, President Cyril Ramaphosa, has encouraged the international community to protect working people against the rising tide of unemployment through universal social protection.

“We have to invest in people's capabilities, in skills development, in lifelong learning, in workplace inclusivity and in advancing gender equality,” the President said.

Addressing the virtual International Labour Organisation (ILO)’s Global Summit on COVID-19 and the World of Work on Wednesday, President Ramaphosa emphasised the importance of transforming domestic policy frameworks to support the creation of decent and sustainable work.

“The whole world is in the midst of an unprecedented global crisis. But within it lies the seeds of opportunity to deliver greater economic security, equal opportunity and social justice for those who work, for those who have lost work and for those who are looking for work.

“As we strive to recover from this pandemic, let us continue to be guided by the spirit of solidarity and ensure that we put people and their welfare at the centre of all our efforts, and most importantly that all our responses to this pandemic leaves no one behind,” he said.

The President said the pandemic has given an added impetus for the goal of making workplaces more agile, more adaptable and safer.

“As we collectively look to the future, we have an immense task before us to rebuild our shattered lives and economies. In so many respects, this pandemic has forced a change of a transformational kind upon us, change that would otherwise have been gradual and slow,” he said.

The President said leaders have an immense task to rebuild shattered lives and economies. 

Last month the continent launched the Africa Medical Supplies Platform, an innovation that will enable countries on the continent to procure much-needed supplies in a manner that is faster and more competitively priced.

“We are also engaged with international partners and institutions to mobilise a substantial stimulus package to assist African countries to rebuild their economies.

“Among other things, this will enable us to invest in job creation initiatives, in workplace skilling and reskilling and to support entrepreneurship and the development of small businesses,” the President said.

The virtual COVID-19-focused summit builds on the ILO’s 2019 International Conference which adopted the Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work.

The document is a roadmap for countries as they explore the challenges and opportunities of an ever-changing world of work.

The summit was expected to expand on the transformation the world of work is undergoing, driven by technological innovation, demographic shifts, climate change, globalisation - and in the current context, a global threat to public health and economic activity.

The virtual summit will also set out a road map of action for the International Labour Organisation and its tripartite constituents of workers, employers and governments to shape and direct these changes.