CE26 - Innovation, Travail

Everyday trade unionism in Africa – SyndiQuAf

Day-to-day trade unionism in Africa

Study of trade unionism in three countries (Burkina Faso, Senegal, Sudan) by a multidisciplinary social science team.

Issues and objectives

The project «Syndicalisme au quotidien en Afrique« (Syndicaf) brings together anthropologists, historians and politicians who will study trade unionism since the end of the colonial period in three countries: Burkina Faso, Senegal and Sudan.<br /><br />A little-studied subject, trade unionism nevertheless constitutes a privileged prism through which to study the evolutions of the worlds of work, the place of wage-earners in societies, and the relationship between workers and the State/employers. As a laboratory for liberal economic reforms and austerity policies, the African continent offers prospects for «deprovincializing« the study of labour and trade unions.<br />The originality of our approach rests on our willingness to approach the manufacture of trade unionism in its everyday life, from the «bottom up«, without normativity, in contrast to a literature on African trade unionism often dominated by workers' and progressive tropisms.<br /><br />Three axes will guide our research: trade unionism and work, trade unionism and politics, trade unionism and identities. By studying different professional sectors (education, health, transport, mining) in teams, this project aims to provide a real comparative and multidisciplinary approach to African trade unionism.

Qualitative methods in the social sciences (interviews, observations) and archival collection.

in progress

Partly dependent on the constraints linked to the Covid epidemic, which brought our research to a halt (inaccessible fieldworks).

1. Roy Alexis, 2020, « Défaire la casse néolibérale de l’emploi public au Burkina Faso (1997-2015) », Politique africaine, 2020/1 (n° 157), www-cairn-info.inshs.bib.cnrs.fr/revue-politique-africaine-2020-1-page-217.htm
2. Roy Alexis, 2020, « Luttes pour la valorisation d’une profession ! Des enseignant.es en grèves au Burkina Faso (2017-2019) », Revue Mouvements, 2020/3, n° 103.
3. Cissokho, Sidy, à paraître (2021), « Faire exister la norme salariale en dehors des sociétés salariales : Les mandataires syndicaux et la mise en forme juridique du mécontentement des travailleurs (Sénégal) », Cahiers d’Études Africaines.

This project brings together seven researchers (anthropologists, historians, political scientists) and aims to study trade unionism from the colonial time up to the present in Burkina Faso, Senegal and Sudan. Little research has been undertaken on this phenomenon, even if it constitutes a privileged prism by which to study transformations in the worlds of salaried work, the place of wage labor in colonial and postcolonial societies. As laboratories for liberal economic reforms and austerity policies, these three case studies offer prospects for "deprovincializing" the study of wage labor and trade unions. The originality of this project consists in that it approaches the fabric of unionism in its everyday dimension and "from below", without normativity, against the backdrop of a literature on African trade unionism still dominated by a narrative of progress and workers’ consciousness. Three axes will guide our research: unionism and work, unionism and politics, unionism and identities. By studying different professional sectors in three countries of study (overflowing French-speaking Africa), this project carris a true comparatism and a real multidisciplinary approach to African trade unionism.

Project coordination

Alexis Roy (Institut des mondes africains)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


IMAf Institut des mondes africains

Help of the ANR 337,729 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: January 2019 - 36 Months

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