It is beyond the scope of this blog to discuss the globe in 2030 on a country-by-country basis, but one dramatic shift in employment opportunities is likely to center on the continent of Africa. Between now and 2030, population growth rates in Africa will be greater than for any other country, including China (which has in fact reversed its growth trends through its political one-child policies). Africa is expected to quadruple in population over the next 90 years, with its greatest economic and political growth likely in North Africa.
Much has been written about the rise of Asia and the fact that Asia’s share of global exports in 2030 would total 39 percent of the world total (or double that of today). And certainly the rise of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) can almost be certain to continue. But what of the less-discussed possibilities for the powerhouses of 2030?
One regional development arena seldom considered is the northern portion of the continent of Africa. This is not a total surprise, as it has been strongly asserted that developing countries as a whole will account for 57 percent of global GDP by 2030. Africa is expected to quadruple in population by 2100, with its greatest economic and political growth likely in North Africa, specifically in Nigeria, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. To date, what has brought the highest levels of economic return in these countries has been privatization, and with China as Africa’s largest investor and trading partner, this is likely to continue to enhance African gains.
At present, only 25 percent of Africans are connected to the Internet (50 percent in cities) but Africa will have the largest working-age population in the world by 2035. What is critical is education and skill-building for this massive workforce, so that these new workers will be designing or inventing new technologies rather than merely repairing and servicing them.
Microsoft’s two-year-old MySkills4Afrika program involves an ongoing initiative staffed by on-leave Microsoft employees (on two- to three-week engagements) who act as technology skills tutors across Africa. They teach subjects ranging from software development to marketing, with the goals of both business development and workforce leadership training. To quote a Microsoft regional director, “We’re investing in the continent,” aiming to meet the UN development goals for Africa. This program will continue through 2016.
That continent’s economic and political growth will be driven by the substantial oil, mineral, and other resource reserves of sub-Saharan Africa, but it would also need to be enabled by stable governmental and resource management structures (including better management of the basics of food, water, and electricity). A 2013 McKinsey Global Institute in Africa report on the impact of Internet and e-commerce technologies suggests that Africa is now approaching tipping points in its financial systems, its education structures, health systems, retail infrastructure, agriculture, and governmental effectiveness. This means that some or all of these sectors are on the edge of positive growth of a dramatic nature.
Timothy C. Mack is managing principal of AAI Foresight Inc.
Matt Day, “Microsoft teaching, learning in Africa,” Seattle Times (September 14, 2015).
Max Fisher, “The Amazing, Surprising, Africa-Driven Demographic Future of the Earth, in 9 charts,” Washington Post (July 16, 2013).
Susan Lund, James Manyika, and Sree Ramaswamy, “Preparing for a New World of Work,” McKinsey Quarterly (November 2012).