The 102 women and 141 men from countries as diverse as Algeria, Cameroon, Nigeria, Tunisia, Ghana, South Africa and many more will be discussing the particular challenges facing the public sector and public sectors in the region.
“This is the first ever PSI conference in Botswana – it is history in the making. The Conference will send a very strong message to our political leadership, especially in relation to labour issues in our country” said Seitiso Sikalame Chairperson of PSI’s National Coordinating Committee in Botswana from the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) one of the three PSI-affiliated unions hosting the event.
“Workers in Africa and Arab region are faced with many challenges, economically, socially, politically and physiologically. We hope it’s going to create the platform for us to articulate frustration, difficulty and project into the future as well’’ says Naomi Dedei Otoo, Public Utility Workers’ Union of TUC – Ghana and Chair of PSI’s Africa Women’s Committee.
The conference will be focusing on four main themes around the delivery of quality public services: the issue of privatisation especially in the energy and water sectors, public funding and tax justice, the recent Ebola crisis and funding quality health services and trade union rights for public sector workers, explains David Dorkenoo, PSI Regional Secretary for Africa and Arab countries.
“We aim to campaign for fair taxation in the region in order to raise enough local revenue to finance quality public services like health care, education and quality water for the people. This can only be achieved when we get multinational corporations and other big companies operating in the region to pay their correct taxation and also by blocking sources of illicit financial flow out of the region”, said David Dorkenoo.
The Ebola crisis in West Africa demonstrates clearly the threat posed to societies as a whole when quality public health systems are absent. A special session will be dedicated to the need for investment in public health systems.
Resources that could be made available for the provision of public services have been drained out of the continent but illicitly and “legally” through unfair taxation systems that multinational corporations exploit to the detriment and often with the support of African states explains Baba Aye, Deputy General Secretary, Medical and Health Union of Nigeria.
“There is a dire need for trade unions to challenge this situation and be at the forefront of the struggle for tax justice as a basis for expanding domestic revenue generation”, said Baba Aye.
Pre-conference meetings include a women’s seminar on 22 September and a young workers’ seminar on 23 September. The Botswanan Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, the Honourable Edwin Batshu, will open the Regional Conference on Thursday 24 September.