The trade we all envision in the 21st century


Monday, 7 September 2020

Global trade has become a major contributor to economic growth, but the gains have not been distributed evenly (The fair-trade charter, 2018). To this day, many people around the globe still live below the poverty gap. Opportunities are not equal and the planet continues to be polluted, with climate change ahead of us.

When we talk about fair trade, we refer to good working conditions, payment and protecting children against child labour. Fair trade is the pursuit of social advocacy and ethical business practices that create a sustainable open economy for all – where opportunities are equal for everyone, putting people and the planet before the profit. For this to be achieved, there is a need to incorporate the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly goal 17 which encourages working together to achieve these goals.

World Fair Trade Organisation (WTFO) together with African Monitor (AM) have joined forces through a fair-trade project to drive the implementation of agenda 2030. This is a pilot project that is aimed at transforming the business landscape to a more sustainable one on a firm belief that it could be an instrument for social and economic advancement of communities. The project seeks to sensitise a perspective of sustainable lifestyle to the society.

A coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs), Small Business and Social Enterprise is being formed to popularise and raise the awareness of fair trade as a vehicle for the implementation of the SDGs. The main goal is to educate the society by creating a civil society voice to promote and influence trade policies. This happens through partnership with members who are pursuing the same goal.

On Wednesday, 12 August 2020, AM in partnership with WFTO & ME hosted  a webinar that brought together CSOs  that  work on changing the landscape of unethical business practices related to farm workers’ rights, labour movements, refugees, women cooperatives and the implementation of the SDGs. The representatives of WFTO & ME (Pieter Swart, Musa Mpofu, and Bernard Outah) shared with the attendees, what fair trade is about, its principles and its link to the SDGs.

A follow-up webinar was hosted on 25 August 2020, where AM and WFTO engaged with different civil society activists and institutions such as Unasa, Africa unite and MindSpa Institute on a collaboration to develop a coalition on fair trade. The coalition meeting was facilitated by Elmarie Pretorius from Mindspa Institute. Musa Mpofu gave an overview background on the principles and objectives of WFTO, to bring everyone on board. The aim of this coalition is to bring civil society together to create awareness, to advocate for the economically marginalised producers, as well as transform local communities and let them know of their rights.

This was inspired by the realisation that a lot of community members are not aware of their rights when it comes to their working conditions. Most end up being forced to work in unfavourable conditions due to lack of knowledge. They are mostly taken advantage of, because of their level of education and them not knowing what their rights are. Nthati Lesaoana from Africa Unite alluded to that by saying that people are in poverty because they find themselves in holes in the economic system that deliver them inadequate income.

As they conversation continued, important points and questions were raised such as, at what point do we say trade is unfair when the parties involved have no problem with the transaction? One of the attendees, Keagan Gertse – a social activist said that to create the awareness in the society we first need to work together to achieve the objective.

“We also need to look at the fair trade principles and their relevance to tackling key development challenges,” said Keagan.

He also mentioned that there are some farm owners who pay their workers with alcohol beverages, adding that we need systems in place that forces companies to operate ethically.

If we could consider the structural influences as root causes of social problems such as poverty and inequality, all lives could be improved. The practice and adoption of fair trade principles is significant to the entire social, economic ecosystem. It will create a conscious society of people who have compassion for all life form. It will help develop communities and give opportunities to the disadvantaged. People who previously did not know their rights will gain confidence to choose between what they’re comfortable in doing instead of choices being made for them.






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