Thinking about labour provisions and the AfCFTA


Thinking about labour provisions and the AfCFTA

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement is expected to support a single African market for goods and services, enable the free movement of people, mobilise investment and work towards the establishment of a continental customs union. However, we don’t know for sure whether the agreement will support Africa’s aspirations to transform, develop and integrate economically. The AfCFTA agreement also does not have any labour provisions, which puts workers at further risk of job loss and exploitation.

Labour provisions and trade agreements

Labour provisions refer to principles or standards that seek to influence or regulate labour standards

We need labour provisions because:

  • We believe that such provisions support the transformation and development agenda for Africa.
  • We believe that decent work is a key aspect of development that delivers much of what we mean by the pro-social outcomes of trade.
  • We want to avoid a race to the bottom resulting from naked competition between countries on the basis of wages and working conditions.

Trade unions advocate for decent work in the AfCFTA

In the presentation below, Trenton Elsely, Executive Director of the Labour Research Service, provides input on labour provisions and the AfCFTA to trade unionists and activists at a regional workshop on promoting decent work in the implementation of the AfCFTA organised by the Southern African Trade Union Coordination Council in Botswana in May.

Watch and learn:

  • What we mean by labour provisions
  • Why we want labour provisions
  • How we get there given the current state of play in the AfCFTA
  • Precedent for labour provisions
  • What labour provisions should look like
  • What the trade landscape looks like
  • The existing appetite for labour provisions
  • A way forward

Participants at SATUCC regional workshop on the AfCFTA | May 2023, Gaborone 



“A continental free trade agreement requires a continental free trade union movement on the continent.”

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