While population growth determines the socio-economic prospects of a country, the age structure of the nation is just as crucial.
By 2025, Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) will be home to almost a quarter of the global population aged 24 and below. And by 2035, SSA’s population will become the youngest in the world boasting an enormous number of working-age individuals aged 15 to 64.
These isn’t news though. Several articles have thrown the spotlight on this very issue – Africa’s growing youthful population – explaining the advantage that such a resource affords.
However, a highly unskilled workforce, no matter how young, is a liability, not an asset. Unless we can equip these youths with the right training, Africa’s youthful population is a ticking time-bomb.
As I wrote earlier in this article, the workplace as we know it is undergoing a tectonic shift. Digital technology has invaded every sector ensuring that “the jobs dominating the labor market now will definitely not be the same jobs dominating the market in 2026.”
As we enter into the fourth industrial revolution, emerging technologies like robotics, artificial intelligence and automation have already begun tweaking and turning the workplace upside down.
Futurists have predicted the different ways the workplace of the future will evolve – a workforce dominated by freelancers and contractors, further rise and global diffusion of the gig economy, mobile and agile office spaces and the emergence of super, mega corporations who will be more powerful and larger than some national economies.
Where is Africa in all this?
But where is Africa in the middle of this conversation? Shouldn’t we be preparing for the future? What kind of seeds should we be planting now to improve the chances for the youth in the next decade and beyond?
Each year, we have loads of new technology entering into the workplace, disrupting and speeding up processes, making things faster and more efficient.
Unfortunately, there simply aren’t enough skilled workers on the continent to engage and manage this technology properly.
In time, these advancements will get cheaper, more sophisticated, and then comes the kicker – who is going to manage them? If history has taught us anything, the answer is “not Africans”.
Flashback to the time when GSM technology entered into the African market. The lack of local technical expertise forced telecoms companies like MTN, Econet and Vodafone to recruit from Europe and Asia. These expats cost the companies a hefty buck back then and they still do now.
However, now we have the blessing of foresight to know that the evolution of the workplace is inevitable. We have an idea of where things are headed, the kind of skills which will be in demand; so the question African business leaders need to ask is, how can employees be equipped with the skills and tools they need to be really useful in future work? How can we prepare them better to run, manage and scale our businesses 10 – 15 years from now?
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