Microsoft 4Afrika points way for workers as tech changes job landscape

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Microsoft 4Afrika has pointed the way forward for workers as the job space continues to feel the impact of Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and emerging technologies change job landscape as well as the accepted means of doing business.

As a Microsoft initiative, 4Afrika is focused on accelerating Africa’s economic development by providing affordable access to the internet, creating a skilled workforce and investing in local technology solutions.

The use of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, cloud computing, robotics and more is impacting the way people live and work, ultimately reducing the number of humans involved in an operation.

Martin Ndlovu, skills programme manager, Microsoft 4Afrika, recalls that the first industrial revolution was followed by the age of science and mass production, and then by the digital revolution.

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“Now, we have entered 4IR – the technological revolution. With every industrial revolution, there is a loss of jobs as machines become more sophisticated and take over the less skilled tasks previously performed by humans, but correspondingly, new jobs become available, ones requiring a new skill set to be gained,” he said.

“While it’s tempting to dwell on the negatives of job losses and the fear of ‘machines taking jobs,’ we should not be intimidated by the notion of learning new skills. And while none of us knows what the fifth Industrial Revolution will look like, we can be assured that when it happens, new skills will be required at that time too,” Ndlovu said.

He noted that the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the normalising of remote work, adding that a significant realisation on the part of many employers has been that a great deal of work can be completed on a task-based system with weekly check-ins.

“This has highlighted a modern reality – that anyone can be part of a team as long as they have a device and a reliable internet connection. This is more prominent with jobs that are IT or digital-based, in jobs such as IT support, data engineering, graphic design, app development and many more,” he pointed out.

For Africans, he said, this presents an opportunity as location is no longer necessarily a barrier to entry for a company operating in the USA or Western Europe, noting that while Africa is starting to see the first wave of Africans being considered for remote jobs, it still has a long way to go before it reaches a critical mass of digital skills to be considered a competitive outsourcing hub.

“It is therefore important for African governments to consider up-skilling their populations to compete in the global employment market,” he said, pointing out that in order for Africa to become a digital hub for skills, it needs to reshape its thinking around skilling.

“We must abandon the notion that skilling is a once-off event that happens at the start of our careers (the traditional university/college precept), and look at it as a continuous arc of learning that progresses throughout our working lives,” he advised.

Ndlovu advised further that all current and future employees should adopt a growth mindset, explaining that this helps them to frame their thinking to know that whenever a new opportunity is made available, people are ready to up-skill themselves to meet the new challenge.