Unemployment – Liability or Asset?
don’t put all your (income) eggs in one basket
Much has been written about the unemployment disaster that is taking place in many parts of the world, and particularly in parts of Africa where formal employment was never at the levels we were hoping for. And formal employment is the ticket out of poverty. Isn’t it?
The pandemic has shown many professionals what the super-rich and the unemployed survivors have always known – don’t put all your (income) eggs in one basket. For most people, a job is the best way of earning an income. It is a safe, stable source of income. Until it is not. The rise of the side hustle, the gig economy, the digital nomadic worker, are all signs that a growing number of people are changing their mindset about how to go about earning an income. For some this has been a forced transition because of sudden economic downturn or technological advances that made their stable jobs redundant. For many this has been traumatic, and some may never fully recover their sense of self-worth. They have to re-imagine their future, one where a stable job may just be a distant memory.
Enter the African reality
AAlways a contradiction, and never a single reality even within a single country, much less across the entire continent. Agenda 2063 of the African Union includes enabling goals such as industrialisation and job creation. These are aspirational goals for a continent with so much poverty, a continent that yet hopes to become the manufacturing hub for the world. However, these goals are based on a paradigm that has been imported. A paradigm that is beginning to shift everywhere else. Perhaps we should embrace the uncertain future of work rather than the certain history of work. Africa has a lot less to unlearn than the developed world and therefore should find it easier to adapt. Navigating uncertainty in a world where the rules keep changing rapidly is a critical survival skill.
Big business will always have a strong role to play in the global economy. Stable salaried jobs? Perhaps.
The 4th Industrial Revolution brings with it many key benefits, one of which is the ability to reach a global market for your products and services regardless of the size of your offering.
What if the opportunity for Africa is to bring its uniqueness to the world, rather than trying to apply yesterday’s solutions to a problem that may be misunderstood in the first place?
As is usually the case, the real answer is likely to be a mixture of both perspectives. We need jobs for some and access to markets for others. Having a good question without an answer is vastly superior to having a perfect answer to the wrong question.