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Christiana O. Kappo-Abidemi ORCID logo, Charles Allen-Ile ORCID logo, Chux Gervase Iwu ORCID logo


Since the evolution of organised labour, workers the world-over have depended upon and trusted their trade union federations to defend and advance their social, political and economic interests. These and other worker-related issues have been the focus of successful trade unionism before the emergence of globalization, privatization, outsourcing, contracting and labour-related phenomena associated with diminishing power of organised labour. These factors have been used as indices to determine the growth and effectiveness of trade union federations globally. This article, however, examines ways by which selected trade union federations in Africa have been able to tackle factors militating against their effectiveness. The article draws on perspectives from two biggest federations in Africa- Congress of South Africa Trade Unions (COSATU) and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). These two countries are often referred to as ‘African powerhouses’. COSATU is by far, the largest of the three union federations in South Africa. The NLC on the other hand, is the only recognized trade union federation in Nigeria. The aim of this paper is to shed ‘new’ light on the performance of trade union federations in Africa by comparatively analysing how they are perceived by their general membership in relation to their effectiveness in securing or promoting governance and the resultant effect on their members and non-members alike are examined and compared with respect to their effectiveness in both countries. The paper is based on research that utilised quantitative and primary data collected through survey questionnaires administered to members of selected trade unions that are affiliated to these two trade union federations. Results emerging from empirical analyses indicate that COSATU and NLC activities go far beyond traditional workers representation.

Keywords: Industrial, Labour, Employment Relations, Trade Unions, Trade Union Federation, Strike, Collective Bargaining, Worker Representation, Participation

How to cite this paper: Kappo-Abidemi, C. O., Allen-Ile, C. O. K., & Iwu, C. G. (2015). The underbelly of trade unionism in Africa: A comparative analysis of two national trade union federations. Corporate Ownership & Control, 12(2-4), 455-467.