The ECOWAS Ministers in Charge of Labour and Employment Relations’ hybrid meeting chaired by the Honourable Minister of Public Administration, Employment, Labour and Social Security of the Republic of Guinea Bissau, Mr Cirilo Djalo was held on March 3, 2023.
The objective of the meeting was for the Honourable Ministers to consider and adopt the ECOWAS Regional Action Plan on the Elimination of Child Labour and Forced Labour (2021– 2030), and to approve ECOWAS Commission’s request of the extension of the implementation period of the ECOWAS Decent Work Regional Programme (EDWRP) to 2026.
The ECOWAS Commissioner of Human Development and Social Affairs, Prof. Fatou Sow Sarr, delivered the welcome address while also noting that child labour and promoting decent work are important in view of the high unemployment rates, high levels of informality, continuous growth in precarious jobs, especially among the self-employed in the informal sector in the region.
She however stated that although the challenges are enormous, they are surmountable and that the narrative could be changed through mutual cooperation, as well as building an ECOWAS of the people where there is peace and prosperity for all.
The Minister of Public Administration, Employment, Labour and Social Security of the Republic of Guinea Bissau, Mr Cirilo Djalo, in his keynote address, emphasized that available data indicates that the lives and development of millions of children in West Africa continue to be at risk as nearly one in four children in Sub-Saharan Africa is exposed to child labour.
The Minister, while highlighting the key progress so far made by the Republic of Guinea Bissau in promoting and protecting the rights of the child through a number of legal and policy instruments, expressed optimism that the five priority areas outlined in the ECOWAS Regional Action Plan on the Elimination of Child Labour and Forced Labour (2021– 2030) are achievable because they are aligned to the goals of the SDGs and the AU Agenda 2063, to which all ECOWAS Member states are already committed to implementing.
Other key speakers at the meeting included the Director of the International Labour Organization (ILO) responsible for Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and ECOWAS liaison, Ms. Vanessa Phala and the President of the Federation of Organizations of Employers in West Africa (FOPAO) represented by the Executive Secretary, Mr Ousseine Diallo.