By Allan Mutagubya
Economic historians tell us that the industrial revolution is the most important event in history of humanity since the domestication of plants and animals. The first industrial revolution saw the use of water and steam to mechanize production, the second industrial revolution involved the use of electric power to create mass production, electronic and information technology were previously used to automate production in the third industrial revolution whereas the current fourth industrial revolution alias the revolution of Technology is a fusion of technologies including the digital, physical and biological spheres.
The fourth industrial revolution is characterized by emerging technology breakthroughs in Artificial Intelligence(Self driving cars, drones, virtual assistants, soft wares that translate, discover new drugs, detect disease etc), robotics, internet of things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Material Science, Energy storage and Quantum Computing.
The fourth industrial revolution presents us with opportunities like the potential to raise global incomes and improve the quality of life for example ordering a cab (Uber, safe boda), booking a flight, buying a product (Amazon, Albaba, Jumia), making payments, listening to music, playing games, electronic procurements among other things. The era also comes along with challenges like disruption of the labour market (displacement of workers) yet again aggregating safe and rewarding jobs.
THE CASE FOR UGANDA.
The economy/ wealth of any nation(GDP) is divided into three broad categories that’s; Agriculture, Industry and services. Following Rostow’s stages of economic development, Uganda has stagnated between “Preconditions for take off stage”(transforming Agriculture to industry) and ‘Take off stage” (Manufacturing. This is evidenced in both Vision 2040 which aspires to transform the Ugandan society from a peasant to a modern prosperous economy with a GDP per capita of $ 9500; and the theme for the budget of financial year 2021/22 which is “Industrialisation for Inclusive growth, employment and wealth creation.
Today Agriculture is about 24.5% of Uganda’s GDP and Industry has stagnated at 27% of the GDP. These figures relate to an economy that is 168.3trillion ($40 billion) big with a public debt estimated to be about $18billion and a GDP per capita of $794. The era of technology has manifested that it can easily turn around the economy of any country/ organization forexample; Apple Inc, a multinational technology company dealing in consumer electronics, software and online services is the fourth largest company when it comes to computer sales and smart phone manufacture with a net worth of $2Trillion and a net income of $57billion, a figure bigger than the total GDP of Uganda! Amazon is worth $1.5trillion, Albaba is over $640billion worth and Facebook Inc. had a networth of $159billion and a net income of $29.15billion(slightly less than the total wealth of Uganda!) as of 2020.
Three years back or there about, the president of the republic of Uganda appointed a minister to the portfolio of ICT and National guidance only to shock social media gurus when they realized she possessed not a twitter account! Just a month back, another state minister in the ministry of ICT and national guidance ascended to office without a twitter account. The pearl of Africa is territory of endless possibilities. Recently, there’s a great trek to twitter largely by opposition members of Parliament thanks to the new leader of opposition. Does this explain why the management of Twitter.Inc had to find their headquarters in Africa placed in Ghana?
The Covid19 pandemic is hitherto reminding us that we are getting late to catch up with the fourth industrial revolution. During the first lockdown in Uganda, the education sector was hit hard and government thought radios and Televisions would remedy the station notwithstanding the fact that 72% of Ugandans get information from radio stations, only 9% from Tv and 1.6% from social media. As to how students learn through radios is a conversation for another day. Well Uganda has over 15million students captured in the education sector and its assumed that these should be biggest consumers of the fourth industrial revolution with all the opportunities it has to offer. Need I remind you that Kenya five years back equipped all its teachers with laptops while students were equipped with tablets?
THE FUTURE OF JOBS REPORT (2020-2025) AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR UGANDA
The future of Jobs report by the World Economic Forum provides timely insights needed to orient labour markets and workers towards opportunity today and the future of work. The report is compiled when global leaders, politicians, scientists, economic experts and professionals convene to map the jobs and skills of the future, tracking the pace of change and direction of travel. Since 2018, a third edition was held in 2020 with specific focus on the Covid19 pandemic and how technology driven job creation is expected to outpace job destruction over the next five years. The major highlights of the report are thus;
In 2018, the report had predicted that between the period 2018-2023, the world would lose 70million jobs to technology. In much the same period, technology would create 122million jobs! For the period 2020-2025, the world economic forum has estimated in this report that the world would lose 85million jobs to technology and technology shall create 97million new jobs! How countries like Uganda are preparing themselves for such dynamics especially in the pandemic is a question for me, you and our leadership.
The report suggests that eight in ten (8/10) young people in the lower and middle income economies shall have create their own jobs. Simply put, 80% of young be in low and kiddle income countries should be Entrepreneurs. Well Uganda being among the best entrepreneurial countries may eat big.
About 43% of the businesses will reduce their work force and integrate technology. 41% of the businesses/companies will only employ people on contract. With the Covid19 pandemic, everyone should look through what awaits them. 62% of the employees shall be taken back for reskilling. Reskilling and repurpose of employees displaced by technology shall be to cushion cut offs. Two thirds of the employers will get a return of investment on reskilling their workers within one year.
34% of the businesses will increase the workforce along technology lines. Newer skilled professionals will increase from 8% to 13%. Nearly 44% of the employees are able to work remotely in the pandemic and human resource executives are considering structural adjustments with digitization facilitating the process. The inequality gap shall increase, with women and young people and lower wage workers to be negatively impacted. The top 10 jobs with increasing demand in order are; Data analysts, Scientists, Artificial Intelligence & Machine learning specialists, Big data specialists, digital marketing& strategy specialists, Process automation specialists, Business development professionals, digital transformation specialists, Information security analysts, Software/Application developers and Internet of things specialists.
Conversely, the top jobs with decreasing demand in order are; Data entry clerks, Admnistrative and Executive secretaries,, Pay roll & book keeping clerks, Accountants & Auditors, assembly and factory workers, Business services and administrative managers, Clients Information& Customer service workers, General and Operations managers, Mechanical Machinery repairers and stock keeping clerks.
Uganda’s internet penetration according to the 2021/22 budget speech stands at 52%. With 21million internet users and 3million facebook users, someone should remind the president to free facebook such that online businesses like Jumia, online botiques, shops and restaurants thrive and we reduce unemployment. Government should deliberately move to step up internet coverage to about 95% given its associated advantages as exposed by the pandemic. Government shall have to update and fund the education systems, revisit the curriculum and ensure skills retraining to cushion the displaced workers. Courses like GIS & Remote sensing should be priotized in all the major education institutions given the dynamics of the time. The fishermen cabinet may need factory retting to match the times!
The writer is a Zoologist and a member of Buganda Youth Council