World Bank punts tech in Africa’s fierce fight to tackle joblessness
Accelerating the use of digital technologies is key to creating productive jobs and boosting economic growth in Africa.
This is according to the World Bank report Digital Africa: Technological Transformation for Jobs, released yesterday.
The report says with Africa’s share of the global workforce projected to become the largest in the world by 2100, it is critical for African countries to increase the uptake of digital technologies to drive employment growth for the more than 22 million Africans joining the workforce each year.
The World Bank report, which was prepared in support of the World Bank’s Digital Economy for Africa Initiative, examines pathways to produce and promote the expanded use of affordable and attractive digital technologies that are appropriate for Sub-Saharan Africa’s growing workforce and facilitate continued learning through use.
The World Bank notes that digital technologies have emerged as an essential element of a good-jobs strategy for African countries.
To this end, it says: “Africa needs more activist policies that promote the use of digital and complementary technologies, especially affordable, attractive skill-appropriate technologies that support productive and inclusive jobs.
“Such policies must target all potential users’ ability to pay for these technologies as well as their willingness to productively use them.”
To boost productive usage, the report urges governments to implement policies that support the development of more attractive digital solutions geared to the skills and productive needs people have while building broader awareness and education.
“Policies that foster innovation and support digital start-up entrepreneurs are essential to ensure that more Africans use the internet for jobs and learning, which will lead to higher standards of living.
"When digital technologies better meet the needs of people, households and firms, demand for their use will also increase, making internet expansion more commercially viable, and supporting a virtuous cycle of technology-led transformation.”
Further, the report calls for an expedited approach to close the digital divide gap on the continent, saying of all the regions in the world, Sub-Saharan Africa displays the largest gap between the availability of digital infrastructure and people’s actual usage.
According to the World Bank, “on average across countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, 84% of a given country’s population had at least some level of 3G mobile internet availability and 63% had some level of 4G mobile internet services, but only 22% were using mobile internet services at the end of 2021, according to numbers collected by the Global System for Mobile Communications Association using a methodology focused on unique subscribers.”
This, Andrew Dabalen, World Bank chief economist for Africa, says is concerning as "the minimal usage of mobile internet is a lost opportunity for inclusive growth in Africa.
"Closing the uptake gap would increase the continent’s potential to create jobs for its growing population and boost economic recovery in a highly digitalised world.”
In its call for action, the World Bank says, intervention measures are urgent, as the digital divide continues to grow “between large formal and micro-sized informal enterprises, between young men- and older women-owned enterprises, and between richer, urban, and more educated households and poorer, rural, and less educated households.”