On behalf of IndustriALL Global Union, I salute the organizers and all participants at the 2017 Okpekpe Road Race. This is the fifth edition of the Okpekpe international 10km road race. I have been privileged to be part of this singular West African race since inception. This is the first edition in which over two hundred workers-members of the Nigerian affiliate unions of IndustriALL global union would participate.

IndustriALL Global Union with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, represents 50 million workers in 140 countries in the manufacturing and mining, energy sectors for better working conditions and trade union rights around the world. Affiliates of IndustriALL Global Union in Nigeria are happy to participate in this year’s event.

This year’s edition is quite significant because beyond the race for prize, 2017 edition provides for participation for other noble causes. We in the IndustriALL Global Union are participating in the race to make a case for Re-Industrialization of African continent.

Africa is a wealthy continent, blessed with an abundance of raw materials. Yet Africans don’t profit from this, because value is added further up the supply chain, after we have exported the raw materials. Nigeria is a classic case; crude oil is exported, while refined petroleum products are imported, in the process millions of jobs are exported in a country with 50 per cent unemployment. South Africa and Ghana have abundant gold, platinum, diamond export them in raw forms while importing jewelry. Nigeria exports cotton and imports assorted smuggled fabrics. Africa unacceptably lacks comprehensive industrial policy. Its time Africa adds value to its abundant raw materials through comprehensive beneficiation/value addition programme.

Africans need to industrialize their economies to create quality, sustainable jobs, and lift people out of poverty. For industrialization to succeed, we need infrastructure: effective transport and communication networks, reliable electricity supplies, anti-smuggling policy and a transparent regulatory framework. Africans must produce what they consume, consume what they produce. This requires intervention and coordination by the African governments at all levels and also by regional and continental bodies. And yet we face a climate where government intervention has fallen out of fashion.

We commend the Federal government of Nigeria for declaring Mondays and Wednesdays every week, as Made-in-Nigeria Dress Days across the country “as part of measures to uplift the nation’s culture and promote Made-in-Nigeria textile products”. Africans must wear what they produce and produce what they wear.

Inspired and energized by IndustriALL’s goal of ensuring Sustainable Industrial Development, African affiliates have taken industrial policy issues to government and employers on the urgent need for beneficiation and value addition in Africa. The race today is part of the efforts to build a momentum around 2017 Africa Industrialization Day on 20th November through mass demonstrations and policy engagement with the Ministries of Trade and Investment.

In 2015 unionists from South Africa and Ghana joined the Nigerian unions to raise awareness on the need for sustainable industrialization. This shows that trade unions can be bold and visionary, and paint a picture of a better future for African continent. Europe, America and Asia are talking about 4th industrial revolution. We must mobilize our members and the wider public to call for sustainable industrial polices.

We salute the former Governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, mni, two term President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) who inaugurated the maiden edition of the race. Today, Okpekpe international 10km road race organized by Pamodzi Sports Marketing is the only road race in Nigeria that is recognized by both the (International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS). Special greetings to Mr. Mike Itermagbor, the initiator of the competition.

Issa Aremu, mni
VICE PRESIDENT, IndustriALL Global Union

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