BY 2040, Africa’s working-age population will be the largest in the world at 1 billion, with 10 million young Africans joining the labour market every year. In Africa’s case, even though the continent’s rate of growth has showed great promise over the last decade, it is not sufficient to guarantee productive employment for all.
Despite this there are many jobs that are being overtaken by modernisation, and which could be rendered extinct. We take a brief look at some of these jobs that could soon become a relic of the past:
The photograph developer
According to research by PEW, among cell phone owners in Africa, the most popular activity is sending text messages, with the second most popular activity taking pictures or videos. Once these pictures are taken, they do not get printed, they feed into the social media boom that has gripped the continent.
Studies suggest that when Africans go online, predominantly with their mobile phones, they spend much of their time on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram - platforms they all use to publish their images. The negative impact of digital photography was already apparent when Kodak went bankrupt in 2012, forcing itself to focus instead on printing technology for corporate customers and touch-screen sensor components for smartphones and computer tablets. Today we continue to find photo processing shops across Africa, like Fujifilm in East Africa…but may not be so for too much longer.
They dot the streets of all major African cities, waving the latest copy but, much sooner than we think, they will be forgotten. In a few short years, the proliferation of mobile phone networks has transformed communications in sub-Saharan Africa. According to Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA) research, 80% of sub-Saharan Africa’s 800 million people should have access to mobile telephones by the end of the decade, double the current rate, and Africans are using their mobiles for online activities that others would normally perform on laptops or desktop computers. One principal activity is accessing the news, which will make the role of the newspaper vendor increasingly redundant as people, looking past the traditional publications which often tend to be controlled by governments in Africa, freely and conveniently seek out new information.
The impact of the mobile digital revolution will also be felt by Africa’s telephone operators. As networks and consumers embrace 3G and 4G technology and as the cost of data goes down and quality goes up, there will be an explosion in the use of other means of international communication (such as Skype) which will take away the final role of the telephone operator.
Car park attendants
There seems to be a correlation on the impact of development on the car park attendant in Africa. Getting rarer in South Africa but still prevalent in other countries such as Kenya, the car park attendant has been both a formal and non-formal role, but this is likely to move into no role at all as their job functions are replaced. The traditional role of the car park attendant is to offer assistance in parking in “unusual” or not typically conventional parking lots and to offer security. Today however, modern indoor and outdoor parking lots complete with payment barriers are cropping up all over the continent, taking advantage of the burgeoning middle class.
Mobile banking is just the tip of the iceberg of cashless payment systems. One payment system that will come into force will be a fare payment card, similar to the Oyster card in the UK. As cities grow and develop, public transport systems will need to keep up with the changes and regulating them (in terms of fixed payments and routes) will be done using these smart cards.
Customers will be able to have their pre-paid card read as they get into the bus, rendering the job of the public transport tout redundant. Similar smart card technology has already been used in Egypt, Namibia, South Africa and Morocco.
As it is, the role of the office messenger has been diminishing due to technological uptake, but what will eventually stamp out their existence are informal networks of motorbike transport such as East Africa’s “boda bodas”.
Initially used as a low-cost and fast mode of transport, once a relationship is established with the boda driver they end up becoming the de-facto messenger for that individual, trusted with all sorts of errands and tasks.