Skip to main content

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions

Factory Nigeria Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images
English

Africa’s Race Against the Machines

As the costs of automation fall relative to manufacturing wages, and as global industrial production becomes less labor-intensive, Africa will lose some of the advantages that it is currently counting on. In the future, it may not be able attract manufacturers seeking to capitalize on abundant, low-cost labor.

WASHINGTON, DC – By some estimates, automation threatens over half of all jobs in OECD countries. And now that the employment challenge is coming into focus, the scramble for solutions has begun.

For example, Bill Gates has called for a tax on robots, which could slow the pace of automation, and efforts to fund other types of human-centered employment. Former US Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, on the other hand, warns that such a tax would impede innovation. Others argue that governments should simply subsidize low-income workers’ wages.

What these perspectives on labor-replacing technologies share is a tendency to focus on advanced economies. But automation poses a very real threat to jobs in developing economies, too. In Africa, in particular, a burgeoning cohort of young people – 11 million entering the job market every year – is compounding the threat. Without careful policy planning, the continent’s anticipated demographic windfall could turn out to be a ticking time bomb.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

https://prosyn.org/809yxWY;
  1. lhatheway7_Claudio Santistebanpicture alliance via Getty Images_ECBFedLagardePowell Claudio Santisteban/picture alliance via Getty Images

    Restoring Central Banks’ Credibility

    Larry Hatheway

    The old central-bank playbook of slashing interest rates to spur consumption, investment, and employment has become less effective since the 2008 financial crisis. Yet without effective tools and the public's confidence, central banks will be unable to rise to the occasion when the next recession arrives.

    0
  2. fischer163_action press-PoolGetty Images_natoflagsoldiers Action Press-Pool/Getty Images

    The Day After NATO

    Joschka Fischer

    French President Emmanuel Macron has drawn criticism for describing NATO as brain dead and pursuing a rapprochement with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But now that a wayward America could abandon the continent at any moment, Macron's argument for European defense autonomy is difficult to refute.

    8