Pathfinding: The future of work in Sub-Saharan Africa - RSA

Pathfinding: The future of work in Sub-Saharan Africa


  • Work and employment

This report explores trends shaping the future of work in Sub-Saharan Africa and examines the challenges that countries in the region need to address to ensure all workers are able to access good work.

We explore how technology and other forces are impacting workers across Sub-Saharan Africa, reviewing historical trends as well as the emerging evidence on how the future of work is playing out in the Covid-19 pandemic context.

We identify five key trends that are shaping labour markets in the region:

  1. Most workers in Africa are employed in agriculture or informal services.
  2. Demographic change has led to a ‘youth bulge’.
  3. Some (but not all) countries are at risk of experiencing ‘premature’ deindustrialisation.
  4. Technology is enabling some countries to leapfrog traditional economic development pathways.
  5. Covid-19 is accelerating the pace of technological change in some sectors, but the region is also much less resilient to economic shocks than more economically developed countries.

We explore three good work challenges that need to be addressed if all workers are to benefit from technological change. The challenges centre around skills and employment pathways, social protection coverage, and infrastructure needs. We make the following broad recommendations and provide several case studies of innovative solutions being developed to support workers in the region:

  1. Create new skills and employment pathways: digital skills training provision is needed for most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to catch up with more advanced countries but more generally the education system needs to place a greater emphasis on job pathways that can bring young people into employment.
  2. Explore new forms of social protection: gig economy or platform work can provide informal workers with a degree of formalisation but it does not offer sufficient social protection, and platforms may need to do more to support workers if they are to remain viable long term.
  3. Improve access to infrastructure: a digital divide is cut across geographical and gendered lines and for countries to harness the benefits of technological innovation policy makers must improve access to both digital and physical infrastructure.

Download the report (PDF, 2.4MB)

pdf 2.4 MB

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