Read full remarks by African Union chair Cyril Ramaphosa to International Labor Organization Global Summit on COVID-19

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Your Excellencies, Distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It has been just over a year since we adopted the Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work at the 108th International Labour Conference. 

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

The Global Commission on the Future of Work centered on the impact on the world of work of technological advances, demographic shifts and environmental change. 

But the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the pace and profoundly affected the nature of this change.

COVID-19 has left no aspect of human existence untouched, from health to security, from social systems to economies and livelihoods.

Now, as never before, we are being called upon as the international community to hasten our efforts in giving effect to the provisions of the Centenary Declaration. 

We have 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. 

Above all, we have to transform our domestic policy frameworks to support the creation of decent and sustainable work. 

In so many respects, this pandemic has forced change of a transformational kind upon us, change that would otherwise have been gradual and slow.

It has given added impetus to our goal to make our 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. 

The African continent has, so far, had lower rates of infection than many other parts of the world. 

But because of weak health systems, resource constraints and pre-existing economic vulnerabilities, the long-term impact of the pandemic on Africa will be severe.

The African Union has developed a COVID-19 strategy, and as part of that, established an AU  COVID-19 Response Fund to assist member states in funding an effective response. 

Last month we launched the Africa Medical Supplies Platform, an innovation that will enable all 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 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.

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