South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. FILE PHOTO: David Ritchie/ ANA
JOHANNESBURG - President Cyril Ramaphosa’s appointment to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) will help place South Africa at the centre of addressing the staggering unemployment scourge in the country, now standing at 26.7percent.

Ramaphosa was appointed as co-chairperson with Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, of the 28-member commission of the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work.

The commission, made up of experts from across the globe, is assessing the rapid transformations taking place globally in the world of work, and identifying the key challenges and actions required.

In an interview with Business Report yesterday, Mthunzi Mdwaba, the International Organisation of Employers vice-president to the ILO, said Ramaphosa’s appointment placed South Africa on the global stage with regards to addressing challenges bedevilling the continental superpower.

“South Africa has a huge challenge with unemployment. Being co-chairperson gives President Ramaphosa a quite unique opportunity to see how we can plan better for the future,” said Mdwaba, hours before flying to the ILO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

“One hopes this will be a launchpad to do things better, and of course to place South Africa and indeed Africa in a position where we can talk about an inclusive fourth industrial revolution. The past revolutions treated Africa as object of discussion,” he said.

“From a human capital development point of view, this is the best opportunity ever for South Africa. Remember, anything that you can think about from the world of work comes from the ILO.”

Ramaphosa’s appointment, maintained Mdwaba, “places us to be active participants in the making of a new world. We need to create the future we want”.

Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko has said the work of the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work aligned with the government's focus on the creation of decent and sustainable jobs, “and efforts to ensure young South Africans have the skills necessary to thrive in the changing workplace”.

The Cabinet has congratulated Ramaphosa on the appointment and the president is expected to co-chair the next meeting scheduled for today and tomorrow in Geneva, Switzerland.

Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said they noted and welcomed Ramaphosa’s appointment.

“We do hope that he's going to bring his considerable negotiating skills to the ILO. For us, really, the focus is what Ramaphosa can first do in this country to deal with serious issues such as the acrimonious relations between labour and business and the exploitation of workers in this country,” said Pamla.

He called on Ramaphosa to also address “rampant mechanisation” taking place in the country.