ILO presents on the SSE to the African Regional Labour Administration Centre (ARLAC)

The ILO made two presentations on the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) at the 48th ARLAC Governing Council meeting for Ministers responsible for Labour/Employment/Manpower issues in Anglophone Africa and Ministerial High-Level Symposium on February 16, 2022.

News | 25 February 2022
Opening the Ministerial High-Level Symposium, the Minister for Employment, Labour and Productivity Skills Development of Botswana noted that the members expressed an interest in having a presentation from the ILO on decent work and the SSE in lieu of the general discussion scheduled to take place at the 110th International Labour Conference (ILC) in 2022.

The ILO Pretoria Office Director Mr Joni Musabayana chaired the session inviting the two presentations from the ILO on this portfolio. Ms Simel Esim, Programme Manager at COOP Unit, made the first presentation on the global and regional trends on the SSE. Ms Kerryn Krige, who worked as a Chief Technical Adviser of the project on the development of an SSE policy in South Africa between 2017 and 2021, presented the South African experience in SSE policy development.

In her presentation Ms Esim underlined why a general discussion on the topic is timely, noting the growing attention to the role that the SSE can play in building resilience against crisis and advancing social and economic objectives of the sustainable development agenda. She highlighted the values, principles and organizational forms which can form the basis of a proposed definition on the SSE.

In Africa, Ms Esim noted that the SSE is rooted in traditional practices of cooperation that existed in the region across centuries. Formal cooperatives were introduced in the early 20th century remaining prominent especially in agriculture and finance. She pointed out that mutual associations are active in many countries of West Africa and social enterprises have been expanding in Southern, Eastern and North Africa.

Moreover, a growing number of Africa countries are developing and adopting policy and legislative frameworks and measures to advance the SSE. Notably among them are Cape Verde, Cameroon, Djibouti, Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Mali and South Africa. She indicated that despite the rising importance of the SSE, questions remain regarding its definition, measurement, size, potential, and limits.

Ms Esim continued her presentation by giving an overview of the services that the ILO offers on the SSE. She elaborated on each of the five main service areas: legal and policy advice, research and knowledge generation, development cooperation, training and capacity building and partnerships. She gave a few examples of ILO’s research, capacity building tools, legal and policy advisory services and development cooperation projects on the SSE (Tunisia, Cameroon, and South Africa).

Referring to partnerships, she highlighted the recent support that the ILO provided to the African Union (AU) in developing an SSE strategy and implementation plan (2023-2033). This strategy, along with an upcoming tripartite and regional conference scheduled to take place in Abidjan in May 2022, will represent important milestones in the region around the advancement of a joint understanding and strategy around the SSE.

Finally, Ms Esim noted, that the conclusions emerging from the general discussion by the ILO Constituents at the ILC will provide the Office with guidance on how to engage in the promotion of the SSE, including in relation to partnerships with institutions that promote the SSE.

In a subsequent presentation, Ms Kerryn Krige emphasized that SSE units create economic, social and environmental value. They can therefore provide the means to addressing long term problems such as inequality, especially in developing economies.

She mentioned that the estimated job share of SSE organizations is 5.6 per cent, creating jobs especially in rural and under-served communities. Moreover, she added that recent research findings from the ILO allow for a better understanding of the SSE in South Africa. They further show that the South African SSE is community-driven encompassing diverse organizational forms. She noted how SSE units provide a crucial mechanism bridging the gap between the informal and the formal economies.

She reminded the ARLAC members that the first-ever regional meeting of the ILO on the Social and Solidarity Economy took place in South Africa in 2009. The plan of action that came out of the Regional Conference on the Social Economy – Africa’s Response to the Global Crisis has created a momentum in South Africa with the ILO and national partners supporting the development of the SSE in advancing decent work in the country. Between 2017 and 2021, a policy program was implemented through a collaboration of the South African Government, the ILO and the Government of Flanders. As a result of this process, a green paper has been drafted and submitted to the Cabinet for approval. Ms Krige concluded with few lessons learned from the policy development process in South Africa. She noted that the policy process needs to build on an understanding and recognition of the local context and specificities. Two other critical ingredients that are needed, include: a highly participatory and consultative process, and cross-agency and inter-ministerial cooperation.

Following the presentations, Ministers of Labour from ARLAC Member States posed questions to the speakers on the SSE. Mr Musabayana closed the session by thanking the presenters and assuring the ARLAC members that the Office Report on the topic will be made available to the ILO Constituents shortly.