Will AI Take Our Jobs in the Emerging Economies of Africa?

“No one can expect to do the same thing for life.” Jing Bing Zhang

Daily, we are being reminded of how artificial intelligence (AI) would render many jobless in the nearest future. Simple reasons; cost is reduced, efficiency is better.

As much as 137 million people are about to lose their jobs in Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia and Cambodia, as reported by a recent report of International Labour Organization. That is about 56% of their workforce.

A Swedish firm has invented a technology to milk cows. McDonalds is starting to use automated kiosks at their eateries to take orders via computers. Can you imagine how many jobs would be eliminated if that happens to all the McDonalds eateries?

Conversely, AI also creates jobs for humans, but maybe not exactly in equal number as they have removed. That’s why the disruption is real.

As I try to understand and answer the big question, would AI take our jobs in Africa? I reflect on the following scenario.

Automated Waiters in Tokyo

About 3 months ago, I facilitated a session generally aimed at honing the creative skills of the participants during an environmental festival. In my illustrations, I mentioned how a restaurant in Tokyo uses AI to eliminate the job of waiters. The only people working at the restaurant are the cooks and someone to facilitate your payment. Food orders and delivery are done via a tablet computer found at every table and delivered via conveyor belts respectively.

The creative lesson in that illustration is using an idea that has worked somewhere and applying it in your work. The idea of the restaurant is a borrowed one from the way Amazon works. When someone browses for a book on Amazon’s website, after a while, the website suggests items similar to what he/she has searched for earlier. For the restaurant, when you order a food with a particular taste, the tab suggests to you other meals that have similar tastes. That’s really innovative.

However, as our festival was promoting sustainability, environment wise, I was trying to promote use of innovative ideas for solving environmental challenges. The takeaway point is to borrow ideas that have worked elsewhere and apply it in solving an environmental challenge.

A participant was not comfortable with the use of AI though as she thought it defeats sustainability. It doesn’t promote a strong pillar of sustainability, people. That’s quite right.

Sustainability is relative. What is sustainable in Japan might not be a sustainable solution in Nigeria. The societal, social and economic conditions are hugely different. Very true.

Whatever be the case, AI means a lot of economic sense, and since entrepreneurs are expected to provide solutions that would create jobs, they would go for efficient services.

Phone Airtime Resellers in Nigeria

I cannot ignore but share this same message I regularly get on WhatsApp. To ignore buying airtime using hot naira codes from our banks and walk outside to resellers wherever they maybe to purchase one so they don’t go out of jobs. A clear case of passion over strategy.

This wouldn’t work. Its tedious, inefficient and costlier. Those resellers should become innovative and see AI as a tool they can use. They should manipulate how they can still resell airtime and make profit. How does this fit into this era which cashless transactions are continuously promoted?

Simply asking people to be passionate without putting a sound strategy of achieving a result would not yield good results.

wall-e-1872683__480

What Should We Do

Should we advocate for non-application of AIs in some places or promote people get the skills needed to survive the future of work?

It is time to start creating jobs that would not be overtaken by AI. “Automation and robotics will definitely impact lower-skilled people, which is unfortunate. I think the only way for them to move up or adapt to this change is not to hope that the government will protect their jobs from technology, but look for ways to retrain themselves. No one can expect to do the same thing for life. That’s just not the case anymore.” Mentioned Dr. Jing Bing Zhang, a renowned leader in the field of AI.

The necessary employable skills one needs to possess in the future does involve elements of AI, to have digital/IT skills. What one needs to is to carry out a SWOT analysis of oneself. In your threats section, does AI have the potential to overtake your job? If yes, I think it’s time to redefine your strategy and improve your strengths and most importantly, your weaknesses. Especially since your digital skills are weak.

And on a general note, Nigeria, as a federal government should promote digital literacy in secondary schools to make sure it is preparing its citizens for the future of work.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s