Future of Work, It is Not The Robots We Should be Afraid of.
A young lady shared her CV looking for a job in my company. The CV shows she has a Diploma in Records Management from one of the local universities — My first question was can you manage files in the Cloud? Do you know anything about Google Drive? To her and most of the graduates of traditional African universities, the obvious is, NO. My mother worked at the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) for over 35 years in the Department of Social Welfare. The only thing she was doing was to physically manage the files of employees and their families. Something a software can do better than an average person. What is eating (will eat) jobs in corporate Africa is not robots is software. We need to train youths to understand who is a future employee.
What is the point of sending my kid for tertiary education for 3 years to study procurement — Jumanne Kishimba, Tanzanian MP. He raised the issue in a humorous — flippant manner but if you think critically, why should you send your kid to school for 3 years to study something a computer can do better with utmost honesty and accountability. Procurement officers of the future will be those who can work in parallel with digital systems feeding them data so that they can make informed decisions. Do our graduates possess those skills? The future is Augmented Intelligence, a partnership between human beings and Artificial Intelligence working together to enhance cognitive performance, including learning, decision making and new experiences. But even before the age of AI take over with the increase of digital tools in Africa’s crucial sector what should we expect?
I was keen to learn about the Case Management System of The Judiciary Of Tanzania, thinking reflectively I asked myself what is the future of people who were moving these files physically across different judicial offices. While this first phase might have little or no impact on them, do they know what is coming in their direction? Are they prepared? Is it fair to continue teaching them LLB without introducing them to digital tools? What if AI will make better lawyers in the future? If decision making is based on previous data, insights, learnings, trends and judicial writings AI can screen these documents better than a human being. Let’s not go there.
The point is, it is estimated roughly 10–12 million youths are getting into the job market every year in Africa according to the AfDB. The continent’s capacity to absorb them is at 3.1 million. Where does the rest go? In a survey conducted by Africa Economic Outlook among experts from 36 African countries on challenges youths face on job markets, 54% found a mismatch of skills between what job seekers have to offer and what employers require to be a major obstacle. This mismatch will increase due to the recent increase in the adoption of digital tools and solutions at work. Governments need to intentionally strategize on how they are going to bridge this gap. Transforming universities to catch up with the fast-changing technological pace might take years, and brick and motor solutions are not reliable and sustainable solutions for the continent. The only way out is to find ways to massively reskill youths to catch up with the needs of the job markets. One of the ways is to pay serious attention to non-formal knowledge pathways; Massive Open Online Courses and Online Skilling Platforms offered by major job creators in the digital and internet economy world. Platforms such as IBM Digital Nation Africa and others can be one of the solutions to cost-effectively educating youths in these new on-demand skills which will be needed for the next number of years. Non-traditional schools such as Moringa School and Lambda School should be more emphasize by African governments.
I’m not saying we should get rid of universities but a sense of urgency and restructuring them might take years. We should do that while exploring other options. We should also improve our competence-based education institutions to make sure they are catching up with digital fabrications. Our emphasize should be more on digital fabrication beyond traditional crafting approaches.
The Digital Fabrication Lab is a facility for the construction of full-scale building prototypes and mock-ups. The lab also houses a small structures and materials testing lab, a concrete casting lab, and outdoor workspaces for installation and testing of mock-ups — Online Definition
While in Africa we might be seating comfortably saying let’s not worry the robots are not here yet and it will take years before they stand in an interview competition with our youths. Our current problem is not the robots it is the souls of the robots, the software. It is good to see most of the African governments are taking a strategic direction to address the issue of digital transformation and 4IR by starting different policies and strategic initiatives to prepare for what is coming. This shouldn’t be just for good PR, this is a matter of life and death for the future of the continent. According to the forecast, Africa’s total population would reach nearly 2.5 billion by 2050. The YoY growth of the youths population should be a clear call to action and we should quickly transform the plans and strategies into actual ACTIONS. The future is both scary and exciting at the same time.