80 Million Young People Will Benefit from the Rise of Digital Commerce in Africa, Experts Say

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As many as 80 million young people will benefit from the rise of digital commerce in Africa by 2030. This is according to an analysis from the MasterCard Foundation, an organisation that seeks to promote financial inclusion for people living in poverty, in partnership with BFA, a global consulting firm specializing in using finance to create solutions for low-income people.

The two organisations recently released a report titled ‘Digital Commerce and Youth Employment in Africa’. The findings of the report indicate that the digital commerce sector has the potential of disrupting the future of work on the continent.

Digital commerce, or e-commerce, is an emerging sector across Africa. The Researchers who compiled the data have affirmed that by the year 2030, more than 10% of Africa’s largely informal workforce will be using digital platforms.

These workers will participate in digital commerce as consumers and, with a supportive policy environment, may also become a new group of workers called iWorkers.

These digitally connected young people who are entering the workforce will generate income in the ‘gig economy’, a labour market characterized by short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs.

They will achieve this through direct employment with large platforms such as Amazon and Alibaba, and through small enterprises, eventually leading to more formalized work.

“A substantial number of young people could benefit from the rise of digital commerce in Africa, lifting themselves and families out of poverty,” says Tricia Williams, Senior Manager, Strategy and Learning at the Mastercard Foundation.

“Policymakers have a distinct opportunity to shape the future of work for African youth by designing growth-enabling policies. These policies need to unlock the potential of digital commerce while addressing its risks,” she adds.

The Digital Commerce and Youth Employment in Africa report goes on to say that governments in Africa can immediately adopt three approaches to future-proof themselves and African youth for the various scenarios associated with the undeniable emergence of digital commerce.

They include: gathering better data on digital commerce and employment; monitoring evolving trends and promoting a wider understanding by policymakers of the issues of digital commerce; as well as prioritizing the development of digital commerce skills in digital customer relationship management and marketing.

In line with these developments, David Porteous, Founder and Chair of BFA, has urged policymakers to “take a test-and-learn approach.” This means that they should use “targeted experimentation to formulate more comprehensive strategies and policies over time.”

He concluded that it is inadvisable to do nothing as the next few years provide a window of opportunity for shaping a more productive labour structure.

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