The World Bank Chief Economist for Africa, Andrew Dabalen, said low mobile Internet access in Africa remains a gap that needs to be closed to take up the opportunities for inclusive growth.
“Closing the uptake gap would increase the continent’s potential to create jobs for its growing population and boost economic recovery in a highly digitalized world.”
According to the World Bank, “on average across countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, 84 percent of a given country’s population had at least some level of 3G mobile Internet availability, and 63 percent had some level of 4G mobile Internet services, but only 22 percent were using mobile Internet services at the end of 2021.”
In its report titled “Digital Africa: Technological Transformation for Jobs,” released on Monday, the World Bank noted that Africa’s jobs challenge is to put in place business environments conducive to sustainable “good jobs” for its growing workforce.
It noted that Continental Africa’s workforce is estimated to triple by the twenty-second century—from almost 875 million working-age people (ages 15–64) in 2025 to over 2.5 billion by 2100 (UN DESA 2022a).
As a result, the bank noted that Africa’s share of the global workforce would increase from 16 percent to over 41 percent, surpassing South Asia, East Asia, and the Pacific for the largest global share by 2100.
The report said this increase is overwhelmingly led by Sub-Saharan Africa, whose workforce is projected to more than triple, from just over 700 million people in 2025 to 1.3 billion by 2050 and 2.3 billion by 2100.
Meanwhile, it said North Africa’s working-age population is projected to almost double, from 142 million to 203 million people.
According to the World Bank, Africa’s job and technology challenges over the coming years are immense, requiring greater use of better and more appropriate technologies in ways that support good local jobs.
It stressed that good jobs require productive enterprises that can profitably expand production, adding that the challenge of the job presents opportunities for enterprises, households, governments, and civil society at local, national, and regional levels to do things differently and better.
The report said demographic, technological, and market developments provide prospects to design and implement productivity policies and investments that generate jobs-for-all growth and truly shared prosperity.
The report said that with Africa’s share of the global workforce projected to become the largest in the world by 2100, African countries must increase the uptake of digital technologies to drive employment growth for the more than 22 million Africans joining the workforce each year.
The report, which was prepared in support of the World Bank’s Digital Economy for Africa Initiative, examined pathways to produce and promote the expanded use of affordable and attractive digital technologies that are appropriate for Sub-Saharan Africa’s growing workforce and facilitate continued learning through their use.
The World Bank noted that digital technologies have emerged as an essential element of a good jobs strategy for African countries.
To this end, it said: “Africa needs more activist policies that promote the use of digital and complementary technologies, especially affordable, attractive, skill-appropriate technologies that support productive and inclusive jobs.”
“Such policies must target all potential users’ ability to pay for these technologies as well as their willingness to productively use them.”
To boost productive usage, the report urged governments to implement policies that support the development of more attractive digital solutions geared to the skills and productive needs people have while building broader awareness and education.
“Policies that foster innovation and support digital start-up entrepreneurs are essential to ensuring that more Africans use the Internet for jobs and learning, which will lead to higher standards of living.”
“When digital technologies better meet the needs of people, households, and firms, demand for their use will also increase, making Internet expansion more commercially viable and supporting a virtuous cycle of technology-led transformation,” it noted.
Further, the report called for an expedited approach to close the digital divide gap on the continent, saying that of all the regions in the world, Sub-Saharan Africa displays the largest gap between the availability of digital infrastructure and people’s actual usage.