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Leaders Need To Embrace, Not Fear, The Digitalized Future Of Work

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The machines are coming for our jobs. This is a dystopian vision of the future of work popularized by the media and perpetuated in boardrooms across the globe.

South Africa is not immune from this misperception and here it has created a climate of fear and paralysis.  Leaders, both civic and corporate, hesitate to encourage and incentivise the very digitalization needed to sustain and grow our economies out of a misguided fear of job losses and the ensuing civil backlash.

Ironically, the exact efforts to protect jobs from technology may end up being the biggest cause of job losses in the future. Because, without a shift to a Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) mindset, businesses will progressively become less competitive against their global peers, eroding their economic relevance and the jobs they sustain.

Decision makers, therefore, need the courage to embrace the paradox that while jobs might be subsumed by technology, only technology will be able to create new ones.

Yes, automation and cognitive technologies will eliminate jobs; mostly in search of improved efficiencies and productivity, and to some extent to reduce reliance on expensive, rare and specialised skills. It is futile and economically reckless to think otherwise.

The good news is that these same technologies will create demand for new skills and new jobs. The World Economic Forum (WEF) conducted an extensive study, leveraging insights from business leaders cumulatively responsible for 15 million people across a variety of sectors, skills and seniority levels globally. The study concluded that for every job that is lost to 4IR popularized technologies, 1.7 jobs will be created.

The consequent economic knock-on effects of these new jobs, although not quantified, would undoubtedly be significant and further contribute to net employment.

Unfortunately, the net new jobs will mostly remain in the domain of the educated and available to those with the means to access and afford the cost of sourcing new 4IR-related skills.

Green shoots

There are, however, green shoots of positive developments, led by a new breed of digitally literate entrepreneurs. They have not “invented” the technology, but instead leverage technology platforms to create self-employment and economic sustainability. These digitally literate entrepreneurs, many of them running micro-businesses, are creating employment and economic activity in lower income level segments in the following key areas:

1. Distributed value chains

Distributed value chains involve a category of people who are generally unemployed or under-employed and are able to fulfil a last-mile service gap by trading in their skills or available time. These platforms link people with capacity and/or skills constraints to people with the time and skills needed. This is done in a way that is dignified, safe, peer-reviewed for quality of service, and enables higher wages compared to traditional constructs. These platforms have been effective at creating jobs in developed, low-unemployment economies. Their contribution to employment is proven, significant and immediately tangible.

2. Collaborative consumption

It is often impossible for small organisations or individuals to justify the ownership of an asset because of affordability, or the ability to use the full capacity of the asset. The converse applies in which access to the asset through a sharing mechanism enables the same benefit as asset ownership. For example, digital platforms, such as Nigerian start-up Hello Tractor, that provide access to key equipment on a pay-per-use basis allow companies and individuals to reap economic benefits from utilising technology without the associated costs of owning the equipment.

This in turn enhances efficiencies and competitiveness of small organizations and levels the playing field for them in relation to large ones. Collaborative consumption has many forms and different levels of sophistication. At the extremes of technology, companies like 3D Hubs enable the collaborative consumption of 3D printers, allowing the 3D printer to become a shareable asset within its community.

3. Digital economic catalysts

Digital platforms increase levels of transparency, which combined with the network effect of connecting communities and frictionless transaction flow, is reviving sectors that have lost their appeal due to a lack of transparency, reduced levels of trust and relevance to specific demographic groups, and tedious or complex manual processes. These sectors are being revived by digital platforms that economically empower micro-entrepreneurs – or allow them to further empower other micro-entrepreneurs. StokFella and Livestock Invest are good examples of platforms that have shaken up entrenched concepts.

Digital technologies present both risks and potential. The way forward is not fixed nor will it be easy, but with the right leaders, and a mindset of urgency, curiosity and a preparedness to challenge existing paradigms, we have a good chance of achieving an abundant future.

We also need citizens and entrepreneurs that see opportunity in this new era open to doing things that have never been done before – in ways not previously considered, leveraging technology never before available.

Valter Adão is the Chief Digital and Innovation Officer, Deloitte Africa

Brand Voice

Africa’s people-led approach to combat COVID-19 shows signs of progress and leadership

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Writes Thandi Tobias

In its fight against the spread of COVID-19, our continent faces a massive challenge that requires unprecedented levels of unity and coordinated action. To prevail, we have to grasp without hesitation what the World Health Organization (WHO) has described as a ‘window of opportunity’ while it remains open for us to do so.

While our continent is home to many of the world’s fastest developing nations, it is also home to some of the most vulnerable. It is a known fact that the high prevalence of malnutrition, anaemia, malaria, HIV/AIDs, and tuberculosis among our people, puts our continent in an unfortunate position; one in which high death rates happen easily. That is why the country’s leadership had to act swiftly and decisively.

As Africans, itis essential that we focus on coordinated efforts in our shared battle against COVID-19.  Africa spans both hemispheres and consists of 55 member states. Our combined efforts and determination can and will see us through this challenging period. The second and follow-up virtual meeting of the ‘AU Bureau of Heads of State and Government’, held in April 2020, ended with solid plans for a more unified African response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to presentations by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr John Nkengasong, Director of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Bureau was also addressed by French President Emmanuel Macron.

All the heads of state in attendance expressed a shared apprehension over the unknown impact this virus stands to have on the health of citizens of Africa, as well as the unforeseeable economic impact it will have. The Heads of States and Governments discussed three broad themes and agreed to proceed to pursue several key solutions:

1.    Stronger inter-continental links for greater African solidarity

There was unanimous agreement on the urgent need to establish better humanitarian and trade corridors among countries; something they also agreed would require cohesive efforts from all participants.  All decisions would be in the best interest of the continent and its people.  This will also enable Africa to speak with one voice on Africa’s priorities. African leaders also agreed on the need for an immediate lifting of all economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe and Sudan, as no African state would be left alone to fight against the spread of COVID-19. It was resolved that without the burden of sanctions, Zimbabwe and Sudan would be better positioned to save lives.

2.    An aggressive medical response

Africa requires the production of medical supplies and equipment. The heads of states and governments called for international cooperation, support towards up-scaling local production of needed Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs), medical supplies such as masks, gowns, ventilators, and other support devices, all of which are greatly needed in the continent.

Furthermore, the AU commended rapid action initiatives such as the ones coordinated by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Jack Ma Foundation. Working with the World Food Programme and Africa CDC, they mobilised and distributed over one million diagnostic tests, six million masks, and 600,000 PPE items to all African Union member states in less than a week.

3.    Fundraising efforts

The AU is taking a multi-stakeholder approach towards raising needed financial and other forms of international support to strengthen the fight to flatten COVID-19 growth in Africa. The gathered Heads of States and Governments also noted the progress made in operationalising the African Union’s COVID-19 Response Fund, which was established on in March 2020. Members pledged the sum of US$12.5 million and an additional US$4.5million to the Africa CDC.

Africa’s Call

To win the battle against COVID-19, protect its citizens and, by extension, citizens of the world, the AU calls for the support pledged by the G20, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to be delivered without further delay. It also calls for these institutions to review their disbursement policies to unlock higher levels of flexibility, speed, and Africa’s access to the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights (SDRs). In addition, the AU also supports the call for a comprehensive stimulus package for Africa and the immediate suspension of interest payments on Africa’s external public and private debt. Such measures would benefit all Africans, as greater fiscal space would be created to resource the battle against COVID-19.

In conclusion, allow me to remind you all, of our South African concept of Ubuntu – I am because you are – which also rings true in the hearts of all Africans and, I hope, inspires people around the world. It is in the spirit of this shared humanity that Africa’s call is made for the global support of our resilient, yet fragile continent.

Thandi Tobias is the Chairperson of Brand South Africa; the official marketing agency of South Africa with a mandate to build the country’s brand reputation and to improve its global competitiveness.

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Brand Voice

Building Africa’s Biggest Digital Classroom

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“Wealth, if you use it, comes to an end; learning, if you use it, increases.” Swahili Proverb

An enduring lesson learnt throughout our 175-year existence is that, while things rapidly change around us, the things that truly matter don’t! The desire to keep learning and growing is one such thing that remains a driving force behind everything we do at Old Mutual. Education is central to this.

Responding to the Challenges

Aligned to both Sustainable Development Goal’s 4 (Quality Education) and 17 (Partnerships) as well as our Responsible Business philosophy, we’re working to share, connect, learn and grow together with the communities we serve through Education.

We believe in the power of Education to solve key social issues such as poverty, inequality and unemployment. By continuing to invest in Education today, we know that we can build a more prosperous future for the generations of tomorrow.

Old Mutual has partnered with authorities, experts, and practitioners in the field on a number of ongoing initiatives including:  

  • Dynamic and interactive Financial Education and Inclusion programmes that have reached millions across the African continent. Utilising an array of channels and leveraging off technology, the programmes impart valuable and often life changing principles that empower customers and communities to build and sustain their lifetime financial goals.
  • Investing in Schools, Teachers and Leadership to drive immediate and long-term impact in the Education sector. Old Mutual’ s Education Flagship Project – a longer-term programme with a seven-year investment cycle – is in place to connect the dots between learners, teachers and school leadership through innovative training that has paid off in improved results in affiliated schools.
  • Skills Development interventions such as Bursaries, Internships, Learnerships and Graduate Development programmes that seek to create sustainable job opportunities and placements for learners.

Introducing Africa’s Biggest Digital Classroom to Bring It All Together!

In perhaps our most ambitious move yet, Old Mutual has committed to building Africa’s Biggest Digital classroom so that we can extend the Education-based work already being done across the Group to so many more.

This Digital Classroom is being designed to respond to the challenges of widespread education exclusion, low Financial Literacy rates on the continent, vastly uneven teacher-to-learner ratios, as well as accessibility to physical and financial resources that continue to hamper the success of the delivery of Education on the continent today, and into the future. 

Enabling Learning Through Digital Engagement

But why a digital classroom?

Our aim as a business, is to be able to effectively respond to an increasingly connected Africa with user-friendly, value-adding solutions and experiences that bring as many people along on this educational journey as possible. Designed with a generation of digital first, tech-savvy users in mind, but mindful of the wealth of knowledge coming through from past generations, Africa’s Biggest Digital Classroom will enhance the capabilities of past and present, to shape a brighter future for all well into the future.

While we’re investing in digital capabilities to enhance education across the continent, we know that the future of Africa is still its people! And Africa’s Biggest Digital Classroom has people at its core. We believe that in creating opportunities for people to share and connect using digital technologies, we can contribute to greater inclusivity and a more prosperous continent for all.

How You Can Participate

Work is already underway to establish Africa’s Biggest Digital Classroom. We will be creating opportunities for our employees, customers, teachers, learners and many other stakeholders to add their voices to the design process. You can follow our progress and add your voice to the conversation on social media using #175Africa

We look forward to working with you to bring Africa’s Biggest Digital Classroom online!

Content provided by Old Mutual

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Brand Voice

Op-Ed: Africa’s People-led Approach To Combat COVID-19 Shows Signs Of Progress And Leadership

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By Thandi Tobias

In its fight against the spread of COVID-19, our continent faces a massive challenge that requires unprecedented levels of unity and coordinated action. To prevail, we have to grasp without hesitation what the World Health Organization (WHO) has described as a ‘window of opportunity’ while it remains open for us to do so.

While our continent is home to many of the world’s fastest developing nations, it is also home to some of the most vulnerable. It is a known fact that the high prevalence of malnutrition, anaemia, malaria, HIV/AIDs, and tuberculosis among our people, puts our continent in an unfortunate position; one in which high death rates happen easily. That is why the country’s leadership had to act swiftly and decisively.

As Africans, itis essential that we focus on coordinated efforts in our shared battle against COVID-19.  Africa spans both hemispheres and consists of 55 member states. Our combined efforts and determination can and will see us through this challenging period. The second and follow-up virtual meeting of the ‘AU Bureau of Heads of State and Government’, held in April 2020, ended with solid plans for a more unified African response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to presentations by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr John Nkengasong, Director of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Bureau was also addressed by French President Emmanuel Macron.

All the heads of state in attendance expressed a shared apprehension over the unknown impact this virus stands to have on the health of citizens of Africa, as well as the unforeseeable economic impact it will have. The Heads of States and Governments discussed three broad themes and agreed to proceed to pursue several key solutions:

1.    Stronger inter-continental links for greater African solidarity

There was unanimous agreement on the urgent need to establish better humanitarian and trade corridors among countries; something they also agreed would require cohesive efforts from all participants.  All decisions would be in the best interest of the continent and its people.  This will also enable Africa to speak with one voice on Africa’s priorities. African leaders also agreed on the need for an immediate lifting of all economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe and Sudan, as no African state would be left alone to fight against the spread of COVID-19. It was resolved that without the burden of sanctions, Zimbabwe and Sudan would be better positioned to save lives.

2.    An aggressive medical response

Africa requires the production of medical supplies and equipment. The heads of states and governments called for international cooperation, support towards up-scaling local production of needed Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs), medical supplies such as masks, gowns, ventilators, and other support devices, all of which are greatly needed in the continent.

Furthermore, the AU commended rapid action initiatives such as the ones coordinated by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Jack Ma Foundation. Working with the World Food Programme and Africa CDC, they mobilised and distributed over one million diagnostic tests, six million masks, and 600,000 PPE items to all African Union member states in less than a week.

3.    Fundraising efforts

The AU is taking a multi-stakeholder approach towards raising needed financial and other forms of international support to strengthen the fight to flatten COVID-19 growth in Africa. The gathered Heads of States and Governments also noted the progress made in operationalising the African Union’s COVID-19 Response Fund, which was established on in March 2020. Members pledged the sum of US$12.5 million and an additional US$4.5million to the Africa CDC.

Africa’s Call

To win the battle against COVID-19, protect its citizens and, by extension, citizens of the world, the AU calls for the support pledged by the G20, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to be delivered without further delay. It also calls for these institutions to review their disbursement policies to unlock higher levels of flexibility, speed, and Africa’s access to the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights (SDRs). In addition, the AU also supports the call for a comprehensive stimulus package for Africa and the immediate suspension of interest payments on Africa’s external public and private debt. Such measures would benefit all Africans, as greater fiscal space would be created to resource the battle against COVID-19.

In conclusion, allow me to remind you all, of our South African concept of Ubuntu – I am because you are – which also rings true in the hearts of all Africans and, I hope, inspires people around the world. It is in the spirit of this shared humanity that Africa’s call is made for the global support of our resilient, yet fragile continent.

Thandi Tobias is the Chairperson of Brand South Africa; the official marketing agency of South Africa with a mandate to build the country’s brand reputation and to improve its global competitiveness.

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