The Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) represented members during the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Summit held on 2nd July 2020. The virtual meeting brought together Government representatives, Employer Organizations, workers representatives, and Development Partners to discuss the impact of Covid- 19 on the World of Work in Africa and share good practices in response to the crisis.
Ms. Jacqueline Mugo, Executive Director FKE and Secretary-General, Business Africa while presenting her closing remarks in the session noted that Covid-19 had drastically changed the landscape. In response to the crisis, African Governments put up measures to control its spread. Of course with a far-reaching negative impact on the economy. “Many governments, including my own country Kenya, have availed considerable economic stimulus packages to support the population and businesses. Unfortunately, these packages have proved inadequate due to the prolonged duration of the crisis and the far-reaching measures and restrictions put in place to keep the virus in check and the inability to cushion employers on payroll costs,” said Mrs. Mugo.
She also acknowledged the challenges facing employer organizations including loss of membership and income due to the financial difficulties facing enterprises. Ms. Mugo noted that this situation poses a risk on employer organizations' capacity to represent the private sector’s voice and actively engage in advocacy and social dialogue. Towards this end, she called upon the ILO to play a role in assisting tripartite constituents to navigate the crisis and recover from it sustainably.
She also called upon African governments to urgently provide further and effective support to businesses to stay afloat and avoid large scale job losses. “Our governments should ensure that financial support reaches enterprises, especially SMEs,” emphasized Mrs. Mugo
While lauding Kenya for expanding its scope of social dialogue and tripartism through a Memorandum of Understanding to manage the conflict, she noted that only a few African countries possess the institutional mechanism for involving social partners in policy issues outside of labour matters. In this regard, the Executive Director urged ILO to assist its constituents to increase their capacity on social and economic key drivers, including those for productivity growth, while at the same time promoting social dialogue and tripartism through the UN Cooperation Framework and the sensitization of line Ministries at the national level.
Nevertheless, all is not lost as the continent could seize the opportunities that the crisis offers to accelerate reforms. For instance; in today’s integrated and borderless world, digital technologies offer opportunities for productivity. Africa should improve IT infrastructure to increase accessibility.
Even though the pandemic is unprecedented, Mrs. Mugo maintained that the Continent had no option but to be resilient as has always been. Working together to minimize the health, economic and employment impacts of this crisis and build back better and stronger in Africa!