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Is working from Home the Future of work in Africa?

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Remote Work

The future and nature of work is changing with time. As time progresses, so do the people finding new avenues to offer their services or sell their products. This has been necessitated by the improved technology and innovations in the industry, making it easy to collaborate and do business.

More than before, people are shifting their operations online, a transition that has compelled some companies and businesses to penetrate the space. The move has contributed to capturing the vast space of customers and stakeholders, which could be translated into profits.

Despite the improvement of technology worldwide, some nations are still lagging. The level of innovation and financial capability to embrace modern technologies differs, and Africa is a case study of interest. While the continent has made strides in creating jobs in the technology space and opening up other sectors of the economy to create employment, working from home has not been fully adopted. This is contributed to by several factors, which this article will discuss.

Uneven Access to Technology

Remote working has become prevalent in the world today. More than before, people are focusing on opportunities online, which are described to be flexible. The popularity of remote work has gained traction because people do not need to present themselves in their workplace.

As such, they can work irrespective of the geographic distance, making it attractive, especially to the younger generation. Access to the necessary technology infrastructure at high speed remains a significant challenge for many African countries.

This is attributed to a lack of enough resources, and limited ones are utilised to deal with the most pressing issues in those communities. This digital divide could limit the participation of African workers in remote work.

Informal Economy Dominance

An informal economy is defined as an economic activity, enterprise, or job that is not protected. Currently, informal employment is the single source of significant employment in Africa, accounting for about 85.5 %. The share of this informal employment is highest in all countries in Africa.

Notably, most of the workforce in Africa is engaging in activities such as agriculture and the retail sector, which cannot be performed remotely. This means that remote work can only benefit a few people in formal employment, leaving the highest percentage out of this new form of doing work.

Socioeconomic Disparities

The ability to work remotely is dictated by access to technology, stable internet and the nature of the job. These resources are usually available to the most educated and those with higher incomes. In Africa, socioeconomic disparities might increase the issue of inequality. Those who have a chance to work remotely have more advantages because they can access high-paying jobs, while those who cannot do these jobs are limited to traditional tasks, which might be less paying and prone to unemployment.

Similarly, the digital gap between those who can access information and communication technology and those who cannot is still prevalent. This further amplifies the challenge low-income earners face in accessing remote jobs.

How can this issue be addressed? The immediate solutions are improving the digital infrastructure, ensuring internet access, and providing training on the remote job opportunities available locally and internationally.

Managerial Resistance

The culture and way of doing business in regions might differ. Globally, different accepted norms define a particular culture regarding work and doing business. In the broader African region, there is a greater emphasis on physical presence as a measure of productivity and commitment. This trend creates resistance among the leaders in most businesses, making remote work look like an alien model.

Concerns over productivity, collaboration, and maintaining the company culture are barriers to adopting remote work. Managers may be worried about the productivity of the workers who are working remotely. The belief that workers have to be supervised from where they can be seen becomes a stabling block to the entrenchment of remote working in Africa.

Some emerging concerns are the inability to develop a dynamic team among remote workers and the incapability to create a sense of belonging. The “seeing is believing” mindset reflects the traditional form of management, which continues to reign in most African organisations.

To overcome managerial resistance to remote work, educating and training managers on how to supervise remote teams is essential. This includes establishing clear communication channels, setting clear expectations, and leveraging modern communication technologies to hold meetings and track productivity.

Regulatory Uncertainty

Which regulation policies guide remote work? Are remote workers considered honest workers and protected by labour laws? These kinds of questions linger whenever remote work is mentioned. Regulatory uncertainties surrounding remote work can challenge businesses and companies in Africa. Without clear policies and laws, it is difficult for employees and employers to understand their rights, responsibilities and protection.

One of the unique elements established is a lack of clear regulations about remote working, making it difficult for companies to execute remote working engagements. Why would a business fail to work towards remote engagements?

The quick answers to this resistance are the issues surrounding compliance with labour laws, tax compliance, and liability implications. As such, African companies have reliably failed to invest in infrastructure to support remote working.

To address regulatory uncertainty in Africa, governments need to actively engage with stakeholders, including employers, legal experts, and workers’ unions, to develop comprehensive policies and guidelines. These policies should clearly clarify the role of employees and employers and ensure that engagement is designed to develop remote working.

While remote work is becoming common globally, Africa’s future may look quite different due to technology access gaps, informal economy dominance, socioeconomic divides, managerial resistance, and regulatory uncertainty.

A hybrid model combining remote and in-person work could be a more realistic long-term solution for many African organisations and workers. The idea is to change with time; therefore, limiting operations to traditional forms of work might render your business obsolete. The future of work is remote!

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