African Jobs in the Digital Era: Export Options with a Focus on Online Labour

Elvis Melia
Content Type
Special Report
German Development Institute (DIE)
This study asks what impact the Fourth Industrial Revolution will have on job creation and catchup development in Sub-Saharan Africa over the coming decade. Can light manufacturing export sectors still serve African development the way they served East Asian development in the past? If factory floor automation reduces the need for low-cost labour in global value chains, can IT-enabled services exports become an alternative driver of African catch-up development? I present case study evidence from Kenya to show that online freelancing has become an interesting sector, both in terms of its growth trajectory, and in terms of worker upward mobility in the global knowledge economy. As life everywhere moves further into the digital realm, and global internet connectivity between Africa and the rest of the world grows, more and more young Africans who stream onto the labour market may find work in the world of global online freelancing. I discuss the building blocks needed to make online work a sustainable vehicle for African catch-up development in the years ahead.
Development, Science and Technology, Labor Issues, Internet, Exports, Manufacturing, Industry
Political Geography
Kenya, Africa