Trade Unions in Western Africa


According to the 1990 constitution, several basic trade union rights are guaranteed, such as the right to conduct collective bargaining. Retaliation against trade union activists occurs and has become more common in recent years. The right to strike is circumvented by many restrictions, but strikes do occur.

The unions make great efforts to get those who work in the informal sector to organize.



Until the early 1990’s, only one central trade union organization, the Marxist-Leninist UNSTB, the Union Nationale des Syndicats des Travailleurs du Benin, existed. Once democratization gained momentum, the UNSTB was also reformed.

The trade union movement in Benin is today divided and there are five central organizations that are affiliated with the World Trade Union ITUC. They have a collaborative organization which i.a. coordinates negotiations with the government and the work in the large Swedish-funded development assistance project PANAF.

– Centrale des Syndicats Autonomes du Bénin (CSA), 60 000 members
– Confédération des Organizations Syndicales Indépendantes du Bénin, COSI, 129 470 members. The organization has increased its membership in recent years.
– General Confederation of Workers of Benin, CGTB 90 751 members
– Union Nationale des Syndicats des Travailleurs du Bénin (UNSTB), 51 000 medlemmar
– Centrale de Syndicats du privé et de l’informel du Bénin (CSPIB), 11 000 medlemmar

In addition to these five, there are several smaller trade unions. During the dictatorship, it was mandatory for government employees to organize in a union. But even after the reform, union affiliation has continued to be high among employees. Attempts are also being made to organize the informal sector. The union is an important force in Benin’s community life.


According to Countryaah, Burkina Faso is a country located in Western Africa. It traditionally has far-reaching trade union rights, and despite the division and the small proportion of employees, the trade union movement plays a significant role. It was a general strike in 2014 that started the popular uprising that resulted in the removal of President Campaoré. There were hopes for great improvements after the revolt, but it has now been replaced in the disappointment over the lack of results. Political parties often perceive the unions as potential rivals. World Trade Union,The International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC, states that the country’s laws do not comply with the commitments made with regard to e.g. right to strike and child labor. Strikes do occur, however; groups that have gone on strike in recent years include teachers and hospital staff.

Burkina Faso


There are six confederations, four of which are connected to the World Trade unions, the International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC.
National Confederation of Workers Burkinabé (CNTB), 30,000 members.
Confédération Syndicale Burkinabé (CSB) with 21,375 members.
Organization Nationale des Syndicats Libres (ONSL), 42,500 members.
Union Syndicale des Travailleurs du Burkina (USTB), 8,700 members.

Within the framework of LO’s and TCO’s pan-African program, there is a trade union cooperation committee between the five largest central organizations. Many joint union activities have been carried out; i.a. successful work to organize the informal sector.

The International Transport Federation has its coordinator for West Africa in Ouagadougou.


Cape Verde is one of 16 countries in West Africa. Violations of trade union rights are common and child labor occurs in agriculture. The trade union movement does not play a prominent role in society and trade union actions are not very common. Collective agreement is missing.

However, there is a relatively well-developed social security system. The ILO has established that 90 percent of all pensioners receive a pension and since 2016 there has been an unemployment fund.

Cape Verde


Today, there are two central trade unions that are affiliated with the World Trade Union Confederation, ITUC ;

Confederacao Caboverdiana dos sindicatos Livres, CCSL with 19,786 members and

– Uniao Nacionaldos Trabahadores de Cabo Verde – Central Sindical, UNTC-CS with 15,000 members which was for a long time the only central organization.


Discrimination against trade unionists is prohibited, but violations are common. Strikes are also common. In 2019, for example, there was an extensive strike among teachers.

African Federation of Journalists has called for the persecution of journalists who supported the former president, Laurent Gbagbo, must cease.

Ivory Coast


Four central organizations are affiliated with the World Trade Union,Int ernational Trade Union Confederation, ITUC

The Union Générale des Travailleurs de la Côte d’Ivoire (UGTCI) with 157,258 members was for a long time the only authorized central organization and was close to the government. In connection with the formation of more parties around 1990, the trade union movement also split. The competing central organizations often work closely with the political opposition. After several years of constitutional crisis, the organization has stabilized.

The Confederation des Syndicats libres de Côte d’Ivoire, DIGNITE with 120,000 members was formed in 1990 in protest against the UGTCI’s then close connection to the regime.

A third central trade union organization is the Fédération des syndicats autonomes de Côte d’Ivoire, FESA CI, with 38,111 members.

In 2016, Centrale Syndicale Humanisme with 600,000 members also joined the ITUC.


The trade union movement in Gambia has a long tradition, but is also strongly divided. The International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC, has criticized the Gambia for violating trade union rights and the widespread existence of child labor; many groups are denied the right to organize. The International Federation of Journalists, IFJ, has also on several occasions made complaints against harassment by the Gambian state and the police. Thanks to international support, anti-government journalists have been released.



There are currently three dominant central organizations and a large number of autonomous unions. The two largest central organizations are the Gambia Workers Confederation (GWC) which has 52,000 members and is affiliated to the ITUC’s African regional organization and the Gambia Workers Union (GWU) with about 8,000 members. The ITUC has acted to bring the two organizations together and form a central organization.

In addition, there is the Gambia Labor Congress which is affiliated to the Communist Trade Union International World Federation of Trade Unions, WFTU.


About the author