Over the next 30 years, African workforce will grow by 800 million people, supporting a population that is projected to reach 2.5 billion in 2050. However, in 20 out of these 30 years, most of Africa’s population will remain rural despite rapid urbanization in many countries. This demographic shift fixes a spotlight on the need for preparedness for the changing nature of work as old jobs give way to new ones, due to the susceptibility of the manufacturing sector to automation.
However, these anticipated job losses are not likely to happen in Africa, despite expanding population and its youthful nature on the continent. According to a report published by the World Bank, automation due to the digital revolution not only offers an opportunity to transform the nature of work for all Africans, but that the disruptive waves arising from this revolution would positively impact African economic sectors including agriculture.
The report specifically identified low levels of technology adoption, small manufacturing base as well as low demand for a range of products as drivers for structural transformation that would in fact create jobs rather than reduce them. In particular, digital revolution would lead to price reductions in technology adoption, which would help firms grow; create more jobs for all; and produce more affordable products. In addition, limited education in Africa consigns most of the workforce to the informal sector thus technologies designed to meet productive needs would potentially support Africans to learn more and earn more.
The catch however, is that production takes place in Africa. Within the agricultural research for development (AR4D) landscape, this would mean strengthening agricultural value chain systems by establishing technology and knowledge infrastructure that supports the delivery of technologies and knowledge products to the last mile.
Because the manufacturing sector is still weak in Africa, the dichotomy between the so-called old and new sectors leaves a huge gap that can potentially catalyse innovations and stimulate growth in agriculture. Bridging those gaps would be driven by a set of competencies and skills required to provide trans-disciplinary and strategic human capital formation, to achieve targeted skill-sets and drive holistic value chain development of economic crops and livestock.
In this respect, the Agri-competency system, developed by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), represents a strategic tool to harness the gains of digital revolution by supporting the crafting and implementation of appropriate policies to support the so called Africa’s “three C’s: competition, capital and capacity, which are the core of the agri-competency systems.
A starting point is supporting the strengthening of Africa Centres of Excellence in the areas of Foresight, Science Technology & Innovation (STI) and Agripreneurship aligned to specific value chains, to enhance human capital formation. In addition, it will support equitable distribution of livelihood that allows for social protection of vulnerable groups in the agricultural workforce.
Abdulrazak Ibrahim (PhD), is an Agricultural Biotechnologist. In FARA, Dr. Ibrahim is part of the Capacity Development & Agriprenuership Research Cluster, where he coordinates Agricultural Research and Innovation Fellowship for Africa (ARIFA) and supports capacity development activities around technology scaling, sanitary and phyto-sanitary frameworks, biotechnology, emerging technologies and foresight among others