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Regional views on the future of work: Sub-Saharan Africa

January 24, 2022

  Victor Okoruwa, Tomson Ogwang, Njuguna Ndung'u

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This document is part of the series "Regional views on the future of work' that seeks to take stock of the main dimensions shaping the future of work in the Global South and present key messages and policy recommendations to create an innovative and inclusive future of work in Sub-Saharan Africa.

*The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of IDRC or its Board of Governors. This work was carried out with the aid of a grant from the International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada. 

There is little doubt that the efficacy of these technologies depends on a convoluted mix of economic, social, institutional, and international factors. Considering potential regional differences in these factors, it makes sense to take a closer look at the impact of these technologies on specific regions, with the ultimate objective of introducing regional comparisons. One good aspect of the regional approach is that different regions can learn from the experiences of others, thereby shortening uptake time when compared to earlier adopters of such technologies. The fact that this paper is part of a bigger study on the future of work in different regions in the Global South makes regional comparisons between the SSA situation and that of other regions possible.

Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), like other regions, is not shielded from the positive and negative impacts of technological innovations on the future of work. Some have noted that SSA is in an advantageous position with respect to the adoption of new technologies given its growing young population who are potentially more amenable to change.  However, the growing youth population also creates some challenges with respect to how best to prepare these youths for the labor market. Will new technologies help in this regard? If not, what are the policy options to ensure that they can take full advantage of the new technologies?

The COVID-19  has also accelerated the rate of change that characterized the forth industrial revolution. The loss of millions of jobs in SSA owing to the  pandemic has brought in new dimensions that ought to be considered in the discussion of the future of work in the region. The main challenge is what
we can do in post-pandemic by way of inclusive and sustained job creation in the face of such pandemic-related job losses. Will the emergence of new technologies help or hurt SSA on the jobs front and other fronts considering both its benefits and the potential for economic, social and political disruption?

With this question in mind we gatherer together academics and field experts at the “Dialogues on the future of work in the Global South” for approaching to it from southern and regional perspetives.

This document –as well as three companion papers covering other Global South regions- seeks to present key messages and policy recommendations emerging from these discussions. On the one hand, it is intended to take stock of the main dimensions shaping the future of work in the Global South. On the other, it is an open invitation to move from the plane of predictions to that of the imagination and future-building. It can serve as a powerful tool to reframe the discussion by adding Global South perspectives.

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