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Future of Work – Shifting Sands

My entry point to this conversation is made from three realities of the 21st century – Zimbabwe. One – we are not going back to 1980 any time SOON or ever, two – the conversation on informal sector and indigenization is misleading; three technology is a critical foundation feeding into the future of work narrative. Just last week I was fortunate enough to be part of a conversation on ‘Developing private sector capacity for accelerated job creation for the youths’ hosted by the Africa Capacity Building Foundation to which I raised an important question, Does the private sector in Zimbabwe understand the future of employment/work as it where? Unfortunately the answer was no.

Locating the #futureofwork– We not going back to 1980

  • Officeless future. The dressing up and clocking in for work will be a thing of the past. Many institutions cutting across civil society, start-ups to business are finding it very difficult to manage their offices. The thought of having an office is ideal but given the context for Zimbabwe and where the future is heading the office might not be a priority after all. The question of why we need the office should be re-looked at as others have already started doing so.
  • 20 years from now (at least in the case of Zimbabwe), a 20+ hectare farm which today employs 300 farm laborers will only employ 5 people to manage highly technologically advanced machineries. In the region and South Africa to be specific, technology of this kind is already there. So Agriculture as touted by many people will not provide employment #Futureofwork is not to be found in Agriculture.
  • The Obsolete Industry in Zimbabwe – yes will generate some employment for five to ten years but if a progressive Government invests heavily in technology there will be no need for Zimbabwe to go through what other countries have gone through. Industry like Agriculture will be highly automated resulting in a whole generation not working in the sector like their fathers #futureofwork is not to be found in Industry.
  • Enter plastic money – and the restructuring of banking as we know/knew it in Zimbabwe and Africa. I was fortunate enough to travel to a couple of European Countries and well to the shock of myself I could find no banking halls at least to the areas where I was living. The 100 of thousands of workers that are employed in Banks as tellers, advisers, will be jobless in a few years to come #FutureofWork is not to be found in the banking sector as we currently know it.
  • At the center of #futureofwork is human development and its nexus with human rights. More specifically the right to work, how and where we locate these rights in a fast evolving society where the machine is taking over will be critical.

Why the informal sector and technology are the bedrock of #FutureofWork?

In many of the conversations that I have been part to, I have always sought to understand the different models of growth and key factors that allowed small companies to take-off. Many of these companies have evolved from the informal sector. Key questions that we should unpack include, what was the environment that allowed Google to move from garage (informal set up) to formalization? What are the key take-off stages that allowed these companies to model towards a global response to a global challenge?

Why many of the Zimbabwean “Start-Ups” seem to be failing within a year or two? While this is for another writing, I argue that the #futureofworks lies partly in this bubble “Start-Up” and their ability to evolve models that are fit for purpose in our context and their ability to manage growth.

Yes the informal sector and technology are the bedrock of #futureofworks!

Next week we unpack the new wave of start-ups and argue that the model, managing growth and inward looking of key strategic sectors including investors are negatively affecting take-off.

By David Takawira
Writes for fun – @davidtakawira
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