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Emerging technologies and the future of work in Africa

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Creating meaningful employment opportunities for Africa’s youth is already a major development policy issue. Given Africa’s population bulge and the surge of young Africans expected to enter the job market over the next two decades, it will undoubtedly remain a concern. Recent research has heralded emerging technologies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) as a game changer that can accelerate economic transformation of developing countries. African governments are being advised to organize and invest for this revolution by building labor force skills.

While adoption of 4IR technologies in sub-Saharan Africa could bring substantial economic growth and welfare benefits, it could also bring social and economic disruption—creating an asymmetry of opportunities, earnings, and incomes between lower and highly educated workers—and exacerbating inequality trends. What countervailing policies should African policymakers adopt to strike a balance between creating an enabling environment for private investment needed to create jobs using advanced technology, and ensuring that all new labor force entrants have the basic skills and infrastructure to make an adequate living?

Also, just how likely are African producers to adopt the new technology? Thus far, Africa’s adoption of new productive technology has been slow, because of the high costs and because many technologies do not sufficiently address the unique barriers to increasing productivity and profitability that confront African producers.

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