- According to the World Bank, the future of work in Africa will center around adopting digital technology, but in ways that significantly differ from the rest of the world.
- Africa will not follow the global trend of old manufacturing being driven out by new digital tech because little manufacturing occurs there.
- Technology advances will create more accessible opportunities to learn and advance across disadvantaged regions. Business leaders should be prepared for a growing labor market of new knowledge workers.
Most outlets reporting on the future of work underdogs look to India as a prime candidate. Still, Africa as a continent has proven to be a noteworthy contender.
Business leaders should look to the African economy, digital trends, and where they branch out globally.
According to the World Bank, this will constitute an emerging pool of new knowledge workers from across the globe, particularly from disadvantaged regions.
Humble beginnings to humble developments
The 2019 World Development Report states the general future of global work trends is for nations to ditch “old” modes of work, like manufacturing, and change to more digital processes.
However, the World Bank states in its Future of Work in Africa report, “Is this what the future of work looks like in Africa? The short answer is no.”
This doesn’t mean Africa will not experience technological revolutions on the digital front. Instead, it means that Africa isn’t starting from a place of high technological adoption and manufacturing infrastructure.
“It has a much smaller manufacturing base, so automation will not likely displace many workers in the coming years…Most African economies still have low demand for commonplace produce elsewhere, such as processed food and tourism, retail and hospitality services.”
So while development is taking place technologically throughout Africa, it is beginning materially uniquely compared with the rest of the world.
Long-reaching market consequences of a digitized African economy
The global consequences and reach of future of digital work evolutions in Africa is also unique in another crucial respect.
As the World Bank states, “a recent study has found that the arrival of faster internet in Africa increased jobs not only for workers who had attended university, but also for those whose highest level of education was a primary school.”
Digital tech lifts disaffected people out of poverty, and — as with most future work trends — what is occurring in the present is likely to become amplified a few years later.
That is precisely what the World Bank concludes about the African economy after its digital development. As technological prowess rises in Africa, poverty will lift as capital accumulates. More Africans will be capable of entering the global economic market as individual and business competition.
Global institutional systems — like the UN launching the African Business Leaders coalition — are already adjusting to these changes. Competition and capital go hand-in-hand with cooperativeness and complements, as the World Bank also states.
Business leaders across the globe, therefore, shouldn’t necessarily take their eyes off India as the upcoming global underdog. Instead, business leaders should give Africa its due diligence as a contender because its economic impact will arguably be as far-reaching as India’s.