News Detail

09.03.2005

An overview of the AfroFIA group and its activities

The Afro-FIA group can only meet sporadically, given the very high costs of travelling in the continent and the many obstacles making it overly complicated for union delegates to gather regularly. The group last met in 2004 during the 18th FIA Congress in Budapest, where it actively contributed to the shaping of FIA’s new priorities of action. Issues on health and safety, the mobility of artists and trade union organising were widely debated. Performers in Africa face a very precarious situation, as they often work without contracts, with no social security and a miserable revenue – when they are fortunate enough to be paid at all. Their unions have almost no resources, while employers refuse to organise and continue to thrive on a widespread amateurism, making it harder to organise the sector and to raise the overall terms and conditions of employment of professional performers. Even where unions exist, they are mainly concentrated in capitals, with little outreach to more remote parts of the country, due to vast geographical distances and poor infrastructures. Despite these incredible difficulties, our colleagues are fully engaged in a militant battle to resist the tide, secure a more decent living for performers in their countries and build a more professional entertainment industry.

Their presence at our last Congress was a fabulous opportunity to convey their energy to delegates coming from all over the world, as well as a chance for the Africans to learn from the experience of our most-established affiliates in other continents.

In an attempt to ease the north-south gap between performers’ unions, FIA operates regular workshops with external funding flowing from different sources but mainly from national trade union centres. Seminars have so far taken place in Accra (Ghana), in Rabat (Morocco), Lagos (Nigeria) and Douala (Cameroon). Others may soon follow, depending on the availability of additional financial support.

In addition to this, FIA also encourages the establishment of bilateral “twinning agreements” between one union in the West and one in Africa. These agreements make it possible to establish long term, mutually enriching relationships between our members, helping African unions develop appropriate strategies to increase their leverage in the industry. Until now, two such agreements have seen the light, one between Canadian Actors’ Equity and ORUUANO in Namibia, the other between American Equity and NATAAZ in Zambia. Among the practical benefits delivered so far are union local staff training, tailored model contracts and agreements and, more generally, targeted advice and expertise. Other twinning agreements will no doubt follow, as more unions join the FIA solidarity call and agree to help.