What Is The State Of Microwork in Africa? A View from Seven Countries

Series 5: After Access-Assessing digital inequality in Africa
Policy Paper no. 2: What is The State Of Microwork in Africa? A View from Seven Countries

There has been considerable hype about the potential of online work to contribute to economic growth and development and ameliorate unemployment in Africa through the creation of jobs, particularly ‘decent work’, by freeing citizens from geographic constraints of labour demand and misalignment of skills and resources in national economies.

This study of microwork or platform work across seven African countries undertaken as part of the seven African country and 16 Global South country studies provides the only demand side perspective of online generated work and although statistically limited by the instances of such activity, in its limitations counters the narrative of microwork as the panacea for Africa’s employment challenges.

The main objective of the analysis is to determine the incidence and assess the main characteristics of microwork in some African countries (Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, Mozambique, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa) and secondly to identify some new policy paths for developing countries to leverage microwork for development without microworkers becoming part of global patterns of labour exploitation that erode hard-won labour rights and as a result of what has been referred to as a global ‘race to the bottom’ as platforms tap into labour bidding practices.

The main story emerging from the data is the very limited uptake of online work across the seven countries surveyed – on average two percent across the seven countries. This is not surprising when Internet penetration rates in many of the least developed countries surveyed vacillate around 10 percent, and few have reached the 20 percent believed to be the critical mass necessary to enjoy the network effects associated with economic growth and development.

Suggested citation

Mothobi, O., Schoentgen, A., & Gillwald, O. (2018). What Is The State Of Microwork in Africa? A View from Seven Countries (Policy Paper No. 2; Series 5: After Access – Assessing Digital Inequality in Africa). Research ICT Africa.