Can Africa really work from home?

Africa is the second-largest continent, after Asia, in size and
population; located south of Europe and bordered to the west
by the Atlantic Ocean and to the east by the Indian Ocean.

It is rich with human and material resources. It has a population of over 1.1billion people.

In its The Middle of the Pyramid report in 2011, the Africa Development Bank defined the middle class as persons with yearly incomes exceeding $3,900 (or a per capital expenditure of $2 to $20 day) while the World Bank  broadly defines middle-class as those who earn $12 to $15 per day. 

Africans middle class population is estimated at over 320 million.

Even with this population of middleclass, the internet penetration in Africa is still very low.

It is estimated that households with internet access by region per 100 houses is below 15%.

The average number of people on the continent with internet access is only 40%.

Source :https://www.icafrica.org

Some countries like South Africa have higher numbers of internet users. In 2018, 63.8% of South African citizens were able to use the internet.

In Nigeria, 47.1% of the population had internet access in 2018. And most of those were using their mobile phones. 

As of June 2019, 74% of people online in Nigeria used their phones to access the internet, while only 24% were using a computer.

I do not want to compare these data with data from developed climes. Taking a look at these data, it is obvious that Africa is not yet primed for the 4th industrial revolution businesses  and its offerings.

With Covid-19 pandemic came the new work trend-Work From Home (WFH).A concept that simply means that employees can work from home without visiting their work offices.

To work from home a lot of factors are considered:

  • technology
  • infrastructure
  • family structure
  • the economic landscape

let’s look at each of them

Technology

To work from home the right technology has to be deployed in order to achieve seamless communication across the board.

Such evolving technologies like Skype, Facetime, Slack, Zoom, Google Hangouts, authenticator apps, and cloud computing—not to mention texting and email.All of these are currently running seamlessly in the developed worlds. In Africa,we are yet to get good internet connections and the internet penetrration is still low.So, how can Africans leverage technology to work from home when the backbone for such is fragile.

Infrastructure

To work from home one needs a steady power supply.The erratic power supply and the high cost of energy will stifle any effort  encouraging  work from home in Africa. The cost of technological infrastructure that is required for implementing the concept is enough to discourage working from home.

Family structure

Here in Africa,we practice the extended family system (father,mother,children and relatives).The average number of persons per house hold in Africa is within the borders of 5 and 6.The predominant housing system is usually a 3 bedroom apartment if you are in the middle class.With this kind of family and housing settings, it is quite difficult to create a conducive and quiet environment to work from home.

The economic landscape

Africa as a developing continent is currently making inroads through industrialization and urbanization. The western economy has transcended the 1st industrial revolution to the 4th industrial revolution

(Industry 4.0 ) which is the current name for automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies.

 What this implies is that ,African businesses are predominantly industrial goods  manufacture and brick and mortar shops.

There are not many virtual business platforms  such as facebook,google,yahoo,instagram etc domiciled in Africa whose business model can support a work from home concept.

Having said this,our leaders should look inwards and re-strategize on the best ways to contain and manage this Covid -19 pandemic.They should not copy verbatim whatever the west is  doing. After all,African leaders did not copy the many stimulus packages the west doled out to its businesses to enable them stay afloat in the Covid 19 era.Our response strategy should be bespoke and designed with the peculiarities of our socio-cultural and socio-economic peculiarities.

ICTs are transformational drivers of both economic and social progress. They have the potential to make Africa a better place, and to greatly improve the lives of Africa’s people. The growth of mobile telephony across Africa has been a notable success story, leading to improvements in the lives of Africa’s people, both urban and rural. However, 75% of the population of Africa are still offline, denied access to the wealth and breadth of knowledge, information and services that the internet can bring. Access to the internet can play an important role, advancing skills and capabilities, and increasing awareness.When we have achieved these , when the call to work from home is made, we would be poised to answer.

Cheers!

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