Labour market and wage dynamics since the 1960s-1970s in sub-Saharan Africa

Conference, 15-16 April 2021, online

We are organizing a conference on “Labour market and wage dynamics in sub-Saharan Africa since the 1960s-1970s”, on Thursday April 15 and Friday April 16, from 9.30 am to 1 pm and from 2.30 pm to 6 pm (Paris times).

Postponed twice since 2020, it will take place entirely in video by zoom software in the form of a webinar, with compulsory and free pre-registration on a dedicated site of our university. A few days before the date, registrants will receive the zoom access code by email. They will be able to ask questions and speak, in writing or orally during the conference in the foreseen time-slots for discussion.

The program, here below in English, is available on the website of the Center for Research and Studies in History and Societies of the University of Artois

Based in France with mainly French-speaking speakers, the conference will take place with a majority of communications in French, including all or part of powerpoints in English to facilitate the understanding for English speakers.

The video recording will then be posted on the University of website:

Final publication is planned in English.

Best regards

Michel-Pierre Chelini, Pr. of Contemporary Economic History, University of Artois, Arras.



Thursday, April 15th, wage issues in Africa and comparison with North-Africa

Morning session

Discussant : Guia Migani, Tours, France

African labour market and wages, general characteristics

9.30. Michel-Pierre Chélini, Artois, France, General wage issues in Africa.

10.00. Stéphane Ananian, ILO, Cairo, Egypt, Wages in Africa in the 2010s, ILO observations

[10.45. Break]

11.00. Stéphane Callens, Artois, France, Wages and economic development, theories and models

11.00. Everlyne Ngare, Kesses, Kenya, Structuring the future for labour: Facilitating Multiple Earning Strategies in Africa since 1990s

12.00. Olivier Van den Bossche, Paris, France, Encouraging European donors to an entrepreneurial culture among sub-Saharan populations in the 1980s 

12.30. Discussion

[13.00. Lunch break]


Afternoon session

Poverty alleviation policies and foreign investment

14.30. Xavier Auregan, Lille, France, Chinese investments in sub-Saharan Africa and their socio-economic impact

15.00. Gwenaëlle Otando, Artois, France, Perceptions and policies to fight poverty in Gabon, Morocco, Botswana and DRC


15.30. Aomar Ibourk, Marrakech, Morocco, The job market in Morocco and its asymmetries

[16.00 : Break]

16.15. Philippe Adair,  Paris, France, Gender gap and the Informal Economy in North Africa: the Youth Issue

16.45. Echkouni, Mhammed, Rabat, Morocco, Territorial inequalities and redesign of the Moroccan development model.

17.15. Discussion

18.00. End of the first day


Friday, April 16th, West Africa, Southern Africa, East Africa

Discussant: François Giovalucchi, Nantes, France

Morning session

West Africa

9.30. Ewout Frankema, Wageningen, NetherlandsThe skill revolution in sub-Saharan Africa in global perspective, 1870-2000

10.00. Eveline Baumann, Paris, France, Labour in Senegal, Structural adjustment programs and the hypothetical creation of a job market

10.30. Anta Ngom, Dakar, Senegal, Wage negotiations in industrial companies in Senegal.

 [11.00. Break]

11.30 Kane, Abou & Thiongane, Mammaye, Dakar, Senegal, The dynamics of wage disparities between men and women in Senegal

12.00. Sabine Nadine Ekamena, Maroua, Cameroon, Analysis of the evolution of gender wage differentials in Cameroon

12.30. Discussion

[13.00. Lunch break]


Afternoon session

West Africa and Southern Africa

14.30. Ed Kerby, Stellenbosch, South Africa, Women's wages from 1970s in a set of Sub-Saharan countries

15.00. Emmanuel Moussone, Libreville, Gabon, Foreign trade and evolution of the wage bill in the case of a small oil country, Gabon

15.30. Ghislaine Bamseck, Artois, France, Labour market and wages in Cameroon since independence

[16.00. Break]

East Africa

16.15. Rebecca Simson, Oxford, UK, Wage dynamics in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda since 1960

16.45. Souad Omar, Artois, France, Wages, labour market and migration in the Horn of Africa

17.15. General discussion and conclusions

18.00. End of the conference


. Scientific presentation

Labour market and wages in sub-Saharan Africa: a topic to deepen

Wages are important and represent around 40% of global GDP. They are on the rise with economic development and in the world, the number of employees increases and reflects the gradual institutionalization of the labour market. In the choice of a job, the salary is one of the elements of the decision, even if it takes into account other components such as the training offer, the cultural habits of the family, the atmosphere at work etc.

Given this evolution, if we compare Africa and Southeast Asia, the gap remains important both in their development models and in their quantifiable results.

The African labour market presents a number of imbalances: the minority character of employees, except in the public sector, the lack of qualified labour force, the problems of corporate governance, as well as within the unions. The wage gap with Europe or other areas then favours strong emigration currents.
At the same time, the potential of the African continent is considerable, a certain number of countries deploy a policy of regulation, for example minimum wage (South Africa, 2018), some parts of the informal economy begin to become institutionalized etc.

Some questions about labour market and wage issue

The conference will question:

. The development of a salaried labour market and its difficulties: statistical data, wage evolution, corporate governance, unionization, industrial relations

. The question of wage dispersion (interdecile gaps, gender gap, low wages etc.)

. The wage gap with North Africa, the Middle East, with Europe and its consequences

. The variety of states and regional sub-groups (West Africa, Southern Africa etc.)

. The impact of external relations on wages: international trade, cooperation, foreign investment

Synthesis: Economic growth and wage dynamics: how does the economic structure of sub-Saharan African countries and their companies affect the industrial relations and wage developments since the 1960s / 70s?

. Conference objectives: state of the art and research perspectives

The main objectives of the conference are:

. To point out the difficulties of analysis of the labour market in Africa: statistical sources, minority proportion of the wage labour, major weight of informal economy or of domestic economy (self-consumption), poorly recognized importance of the female work, weak social protection of the employees, difficulties organizing and union governance, institutional issues

. To define fundamental trends in the evolution of African wages: organization and particularities of the labour market, analysis of available wage dispersals, including national Gini and gender gap, and differences between countries, wage gap and labour migrations, possible future prospects for the African wage earner

. Programming research tracks: the conference is set in the perspective of a multi-year project led by the WAGE Research Group (Wage Analysis in a Globalising Environment, head Michel-Pierre Chélini, CREHS) and is the first preconference of a session “Wages, inequalities and global development since the 1960s, costs and remuneration of human resources [emerging countries/advanced countries]”, to be held at the World Economic History Congress in Paris, late July 2022. This Congress wishes to increase the particular participation of African researchers or Africanists.