New research shows 80m young people to benefit from the rise of digital commerce in Africa 

The Mastercard Foundation in partnership with BFA has released Digital Commerce and Youth Employment in Africa – new research that shows 80 million young people will benefit from the rise of digital commerce in Africa by 2030.

These findings indicate that the digital commerce sector has the potential of disrupting the future of work on the continent.

Digital commerce, or e-commerce, is an emerging sector across Africa. By 2030, more than 10 percent of its largely informal workforce will be using digital platforms. These workers will participate in digital commerce as consumers, and with a supportive policy environment may also become a new group of workers called iWorkers.

These digitally-connected young people who are entering the workforce will generate income in the ‘gig economy’ through direct employment with large platforms such as Amazon and Alibaba, and through small enterprises – eventually leading to more formalized work.

Tricia Williams, Senior Manager, Strategy and Learning at the Mastercard Foundation says: “A substantial number of young people could benefit from the rise of digital commerce in Africa, lifting themselves and their families out of poverty. Policymakers have a distinct opportunity to shape the future of work for African youth by designing growth-enabling policies. These policies need to unlock the potential of digital commerce while addressing its risks”.

Digital Commerce and Youth Employment in Africa goes on to say that governments in Africa can immediately adopt three approaches to future-proof themselves and African youth for the various scenarios associated with the undeniable emergence of digital commerce. They include:

  • Gathering better data on digital commerce and employment.
  • Monitoring evolving trends and promoting a wider understanding by policymakers of the issues in digital commerce.
  • Prioritising the development of digital commerce skills in digital customer relationship management and marketing.

David Porteous, Founder and Chair of BFA, recommends policymakers to “take a test-and-learn approach – targetted experimentation to formulate more comprehensive strategies and policies over time; such as a digital version of the public works programme targetting youth or testing the exemption of certain labour and tax laws to encourage an active iWorker policy”. He further adds: “It is inadvisable to do nothing, as the next few years provide a window of opportunity for shaping a more productive labour structure”.


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