Digital labour in Africa: Opportunities and Challenges

This policy brief reports on a study that analysed 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 contribute to more socially inclusive digital labour markets. To this end, Research ICT Africa (RIA) in collaboration with Learning Initiatives on Reforms for Network Economies Asia (LIRNEasia) Asia and DiĆ”logo Regional Sobre Sociedad de la InformaciĆ³n (DIRSI) in Latin America, conducted a demand-side nationally representative survey, between 2017 and 2019 across the three regions. The main objective of the study was to assess the implications of changes in the nature of work (digital labour) for developing countries in the Global South, for marginalised groups in particular, for equitable growth and inclusive social development. Read the highlights of the study and find the download for the policy brief below.

  • Low internet penetration rates are reflected in the extremely low levels of platform work undertaken in Africa.
  • However, work disparities extend beyond access issues. There are 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, which source largely domestic and e-hailing piecework.
  • An analysis of males and females who have similar digital skills and education levels shows that males (USD 9.44) earn more than females (USD 5.97), resulting in a significant wage gap of USD 3.47.
  • The large percentage of income differentials between males and females is unexplained by quantifiable factors such as education and digital skills, but correlates highly with invisible factors that are assumed from qualitative studies to underlying cultural and particularly patriarchal factors

Suggested citation

Mothobi, O. (2021). Digital labour in Africa: Opportunities and Challenges (Policy Brief 2021, No. 1). Research ICT Africa.