Emerging technologies and the future of work in Africa

Creating meaningful employment opportunities for African youth is already a major development policy issue. This will undoubtedly remain a concern, given Africa’s population boom and the surge of young Africans expected to enter the job market over the next two decades. Recent research heralds emerging technologies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) that could be game-changers and accelerate economic transformation in developing countries. African governments are advised to organize and invest in this revolution by building workforce skills.

While the adoption of 4IR technology in sub-Saharan Africa can lead to considerable economic growth and welfare, it can also lead to social and economic disruption – creating asymmetries in opportunity, income and income between low- and high-educated workers — and exacerbate trends in inequality. What countervailing policies should African policymakers adopt to strike a balance between creating an enabling environment for the private investment needed to create jobs using advanced technologies and ensuring that all new labour entrants have the basic skills and infrastructure they need to lead an adequate life? balance?

Furthermore, how likely are African producers to adopt new technologies? The adoption of new production technologies in Africa has so far been slow due to high costs and many of them failing to adequately address the unique barriers to increasing productivity and profitability faced by African producers.

On September 26, 2022, the Brookings African Growth Initiative (AGI) will discuss the new report, “From Survival to Disruptive Innovation: Africa, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and the Future of Jobs” with authors Louise Fox and Landry Signé . As part of the discussion, the authors will seek to answer the following questions:

  • What are the current and potential benefits of 4IR technology for African economic transformation?
  • Given the long-term barriers to technology adoption, how likely are African producers to adopt new 4IR technologies?
  • If Africans fully embrace the deployment of 4IR technologies, what are the implications for inclusive development and future employment?

Following a discussion with the authors, Judge Tei Mensah (Office of Chief Economist, World Bank Africa Region) will provide comments and distill key policy choices for African countries in the new era of emerging technologies and the future of work in Africa.

Viewers can submit questions to panelists by emailing events@brookings.edu or via Twitter #Africa4IR.

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