Where will work be done in the future: Africa rising?

africa workforce

Earlier this year, Times Higher Education released its World University Rankings 2014-15. While the usual suspects occupied the top spots, three South African universities - Cape Town (124), Witwatersrand (251-275) and Stellenbosch (276-300) made it into the top 300.

These relatively low placings may not seem particularly impressive, but they actually represent the first time three African universities have been ranked among the very best in the world. Such an achievement is evidence of the steady momentum building in the African economy - something that may have a significant impact on the way the world gets work done in years to come.

A growing force

Universities have a responsibility to produce an important cohort of the workforce of the future. As Africa's institutions grow in calibre, so too will the graduates they produce for the jobs market. Should African universities continue with their current rate of development, it would not be a surprise to see as many as ten feature in the top 300 come 2025.

As a result, the continent could become an important source of talent for businesses across the world, with 12 million Africans forecast to have tertiary education by 2030.

This potential is borne out by demographic statistics. According to a Quartz article, the population of Sub-Saharan Africa will have more than doubled to two billion by 2050, with young people accounting for the majority of this. Indeed, it is predicted that the region will be home to a staggering 25% of the world population aged 24 and under by as early as 2025.

Getting work done

So many young Africans will need work. At present, this group accounts for 60% of the continent's unemployed, compared to the global average of 44%. However, the fact one in four young people will soon be African means businesses are going to have to turn to the continent to bolster their workforces.

There is already evidence of this occurring. In order to collect data on the African economy, Standard Chartered has provided hundreds of thousands of Africans with mobile phones. The company pays the data costs for the devices and in return the owners are asked to photograph certain commodities on sale in their local area and send them to the bank.

Using machine learning, data is drawn from the images, which provides an insight into the state of the African economy. This is further evidence of the impact of mobile technology on Africa's economy, with the rise of mobile banking having helped people on the continent to overcome the issue of not having a bank account.

While it is a relatively basic example, the Standard Chartered project in Africa is an example of how the seeds are being sown for more work to take place in the region. Thanks to modern technology, the company has adopted a new way of working that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

As technology continues to advance and Africa's population and education system develops, the possibilities for work to take place in this part of the world will only increase. The Standard Chartered project is also evidence of the potential power of crowdsourcing as a means of getting work done. Not only does it represent a cost-effective option for the business, it also helps to create opportunities in underprivileged parts of the world.

Africa rising

What do all of the issues discussed tell us? The evidence suggests Africa is rising as both an educational and economic force, and, as a result, it has the potential to make a telling contribution to how and where businesses may get work done in the years to come.

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    Written by Bruce Morton
    Bruce Morton is in his 42nd year in the human capital industry and is well known as a global workforce design and talent acquisition expert. He has designed, implemented and managed some of the largest resourcing solutions across many different parts of the globe and has been recognized as HR Thought Leader of the Year by HRO both in EMEA and in the US. Bruce recently published a relevant book for the new world of work, "Redesigning the Way Work Works," available on Amazon.