The Impact of Information and Communication Technologies on Jobs in Africa: A Literature Review
15. March 2019
In the past two decades, Africa has experienced a wave of mobile telephony and the early stages of internet connectivity. This paper summarises recent empirical research findings on the impact that information and communication technologies (ICTs) have had on jobs in Africa, be it in creating new jobs, destroying old jobs, or changing the quality of existing jobs in levels of productivity, incomes, or working conditions. The paper discusses various channels in which ICTs can impact jobs: In theory, they have the potential to allow for text-based services platforms that can help farmers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) become more productive or receive better access to market information; mobile money has the potential to allow the most vulnerable workers more independence and security; and the internet could allow women, in particular, to increase their incomes and independence. This literature review examines what rigorous empirical evidence actually exists to corroborate these claims. Most of the studies reviewed do indeed find positive effects of ICTs on jobs (or related variables) in Africa. On the basis of these findings, the paper reviews policy options for those interested in job creation in Sub-Saharan Africa. The paper concludes by highlighting that these positive findings may exist in parallel with negative structural dynamics that are more difficult to measure. Also, the review’s findings - while positive across the board - should be seen as distinct for ICTs in the period of the 2000s and 2010s, and cannot easily be transferred to expect similarly positive effects of the much newer, Fourth Industrial Revolution Technologies (such as machine learning, blockchain technologies, big data analytics, platform economies), which may produce entirely different dynamics.
German Development Institute | The Impact of Information and Communication Technologies on Jobs in Africa: A Literature Review