Digital labour in Africa: opportunities and challenges

Research ICT Africa (RIA) released a policy brief that reports on a study that explored how the digital economy can be harnessed to mitigate traditional market frictions, such as the digital skills gap, discrimination, and stereotyping, and how digital labour markets, in particular, can become more socially inclusive. The main objective of the study was to assess the implications of changes in the nature of work (digital labour) among marginalised groups, in particular in developing countries in the Global South. Some of the main findings of the brief include:

  • Low internet penetration rates are reflected in the extremely low levels of platform work undertaken in Africa.
  • There are work disparities even among those who are online. Individuals with digital skills, measured by years of using the internet, are more likely to participate in digital labour markets.
  • Individuals residing in Asian and Latin American countries are more likely to work on platforms that require digital skills while those in Africa participate in platforms that source largely domestic and e-hailing piecework.
  • An analysis of males and females who have similar digital skills and education levels shows that men (US$9.44) earn more than women (US$5.97), resulting in a significant wage gap of US$3.47.
  • The large income differentials between men and women is unexplained by quantifiable factors such as education and digital skills, but rather correlate highly with invisible factors such as underlying cultural influences