Trade Unions in Africa


According to Countryaah, South Africa is one of 54 countries in Africa. Nearly five million are unionized. The degree of connection varies greatly; In the mining, clothing, textile, transport and telecom sectors, almost 90 per cent are organized, while only a few of South Africa’s 1.7 million farm workers and domestic workers are unionized. The law provides far-reaching trade union rights, but the World Trade Union, International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC’s report on violations of trade union rights states that the situation for trade unions continues to deteriorate and serious violations of the right to organize.

Privatization policy has met with strong criticism from the trade union movement and the cooperation between the ANC, the African National Congress – the liberation movement which is now the party that has been in power since universal suffrage was introduced in 1994 – and COSATU has been subjected to increasing pressure. In the 2016 local elections, the ANC lost the majority in all the major cities and criticism of the ANC has become increasingly loud. The ANC’s crisis has also been reflected in the trade union movement, which is more fragmented today.

In 2012, a strike at the Marikama platinum mine developed into a severe national crisis when 36 workers were shot dead by police. Comparisons with the Sharpville massacre in 1960 – which was the starting point for the ANC’s armed struggle against apartheid – were made and strikes spread and also developed into a crisis within the National Union of Mineworkers, NUM. A newly formed union for miners and construction workers, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, AMCU, has grown strongly.

Strikes are common.

In 2019, the minimum wage was introduced in South Africa. The unions’ attitude to the introduction of a minimum wage was fragmented. From 2020, fathers will also have a legal right to paid leave – 10 days – in connection with the birth of a child. The new law is described as a great union success.

Cooperation is conducted between the unions in the countries that are members of SADC, the Southern African Development Community through the trade union organization SATUCC, The Southern Africa Trade Union Coordination Council, which is a recognized negotiating partner for SADC.

South Africa


Today, there are four central trade unions in South Africa:

Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), 1,800,000 members.

Confederation of South African Workers’ Unions (CONSAWU), 49,730 members.

Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA), 500,000 members.

National Council of Trade Unions, NACTU, 400,000 members.

COSATU, which is the most important central organization, has worked closely with the ANC, but criticism of the close cooperation has increased and in recent years the relationship has been tense. Since 2017, work for gender equality in working life has also been a priority issue. At the 2018 Congress, Zingiswa Losi was elected as the first woman President (President) of COSATU.

FEDUSA is a white-collar trade union that has traditionally had a leadership layer dominated by whites.

The four central organizations are affiliated with the World Trade Union Confederation, ITUC. COSATU and NACTU are also affiliated with the Organization of African Trade Union Unity, OATUU.

Several Global Union Federations, GUF have their Africa offices in South Africa; International Union of Food Workers etc., Construction International, Textile Workers, International Metal Federation.


South Sudan is a country located in North Africa. Normal union activities cannot be conducted, but there is some organized union work. In 2019, there were far-reaching plans for a strike among oil workers due to non-payment of wages. However, the strike was called off at the last minute.

Initiatives to overcome the most serious forms of child labor have been taken by local professional organizations. Child custody is prohibited by law. According to the constitution, women must also have the same pay as men for equal work.

South Sudan


A central trade union, the South Sudan Workers Trade Union Federation – SSWTUF, has been set up to try to build a trade union movement. SSWTUF has 11 000 members and is connected to the World Trade unions, the International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC. SSWUT has reached an agreement with the Sudan Workers Trade Union Federation (SWTUF), Sudan’s central trade union organization on cooperation, among other things. to solve problems with the many South Sudanese working in Sudan.


The Muga regime that fell in 2018 was one of the worst in the world when it comes to violations of trade union rights. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has on several occasions protested against the harassment of trade union leaders, but normal trade union activities were still being negotiated. After the fall of Mugabe, hopes were high that a radical change would take place quickly, but hopes were dashed when his old party won the election and the radical changes failed.

Strikes are common, often due to unpaid wages.



The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) is the only central trade union organization with 30 affiliated unions and 241,998 members. ZCTU is affiliated to the World Trade Union Confederation, the International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC and the Organization of African Trade Union Unity, OATUU.


The union has played an important role in the country’s development and the chairman of the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has often taken on important assignments both internationally and nationally: in the first democratic elections in 1991, the chairman of the ZCTU, Zambia Congress of Trade Unions, Frederick Chiluba to the country’s president. In 2000 became Fackson Shamenda elected President of the World union International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC.

Privatization of companies or industries has led to strong conflicts between different governments and unions. On several occasions, state and municipal employees have been fired or threatened with dismissal due to union involvement or when they went on strike for higher wages. In the private sector, workers often have to give up union membership in order to get a job.

In the mining district, where a large part of the business is run by Chinese companies, there are reports of worsening violations of trade union rights. The legislation has largely made legal strikes impossible, but a new labor market law which i.e. regulated the right to fixed-term employment and welcomed by the ZCTU has improved the situation somewhat. See AllCityPopulation for state flag of Zambia.



The union’s development in Zambia is very strongly linked to the liberation movements in southern Africa. The Zambia Congress of Traded Unions, ZCTU, was formed in 1965 and has long been one of the most influential trade unions in Africa. ZCTU had 217,621 members in 2019 divided into a total of 33 unions, of which the miners’ union has long been the most powerful. ZCTU is affiliated to the International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC and the Organization of African Trade Union Unity, OATUU.

Today there is also another central organization Federation of Free Trade Unions of Zambia, FFTUZ.

Uni Global Union – UNI: has one of its three African offices in Ndola in the mining district of northern Zambia.

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