Oyeniyi Abe, a UK-based consultant, has called on African leaders to implement measures that will address business and human rights abuses in their countries.
Abe, a senior lecturer and expert on business and human rights, made the call at a five-day programme for African journalists organised by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, on Tuesday, in Accra, Ghana. He noted that measures such as the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles (UNGPs) will help in eliminating business and human rights violations in Africa.The expert identified policy framework as the first step to integrating human rights into business practices at the regional and national levels.
Abe, who has carried out research in 55 Africa countries, said there was no policy document and regulatory capacity to compel corporations to respect human rights at the continental level. He said this was despite the abuses of corporate actors in various sectors in Africa. He cited the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as an example of an agreement that has no human rights content but is only focused on business.
“Many governments in Africa feel that including human rights content will scare away investors. Business corporations look at the benefits and returns.“This is not so; human rights content is important for sustainable trade and investment in any country. I hope that when AfCFTA is reviewed after five years, human rights content will be included,” he said.
The expert, however, said that the national judicial system has not effectively prevented, investigated, or prosecuted violators of business and human rights. He said that the research, though a soft law, will be instrumental to the effective implementation of the draft AU policy framework for business and human rights in Africa. Abe added that the AU policy organs were working toward the adoption of a policy framework of comprehensive research on business and human rights in Africa.
He said that the policy framework was premised on agenda 2063, aimed at a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development.
In her contribution, Hibist Kassa, a Ghana-based consultant and human rights activist, said that the UN Guiding Principles of human rights was to help corporations track potential violation of human rights.Kassa recalled that mining workers in Marikana, South Africa, protesting against cheap labour were killed on August 16, 2012, by security personnel, including women. She said that the capacity of the state to regulate the impact of the environment resulting from industrial mining was weak and inefficient.-