Investing in Human Capital: A key to preparing African youth for the future of work
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Throughout the world, the nature of work is continuously evolving. Like many people in the past feared that machines are coming to take our jobs, many people in today’s world have this fear.
A few months ago, I was having an “e-chat” with one of my friends. The conversation was about the introduction of electronic mobile money booths, which these are mobile booths where people in Zambia can send and receive money anywhere in the country through a cashier hired by the booth owner. The introduction of electronic mobile money booths that would operate similarly to ATMs will mean that cashiers’ jobs would be lost. My friend was strongly against this idea, he wrote, “well it is a fact that people will lose their jobs.” This illustrates that even in today’s world, young people fear that machines will take our jobs and consequently increase unemployment rates.
However, young people, governments and other stakeholders need to understand that technology is the future and with the advancement of technology new opportunities will be created. But, this can only be realized if there are adequate investments in human capital as this critical area is under-invested in. According to the World Bank Report 2019, “governments should be investing in human capital, particularly in early childhood to develop high-order cognitive and social behavioral skills in addition to foundational skills.” Investing in human capital is what it will take to enhance skills needed to prepare Zambia’s youth for the digital economy and the future of work. This essay focuses on two types of human capital: education and health.
Investing in education is vital in preparing for the Zambian youth for the future of work. Education in this context refers to formal and informal. Education should be more focused on empowering young people with cognitive, adaptability and social behavioral skills such empathy, resilience, perseverance, conflict resolution, relationship management, critical thinking among others. These skills enhance human capital which is needed in the digital economy. While education speeds up the development of new technologies, it also prepares young people for the future of work.
The future of work will require a healthy population. Therefore, investing in the heath sector is equally important. Investing in health will result in increased productivity, life expectancy, new job prospects and human development. For example, in Zambia this would mean strengthening the health care system by promoting public-private partnerships and digital technologies for health especially in government clinics and hospitals that cater for the larger Zambian population. This is essential for the future of work; people are more productive when they are healthy.
In conclusion, the African governments should make huge investments in the education and health sectors to prepare Africa’s youth for the future of work. Investments in human capital will increase an individual’s productivity.
Musopa Kalenga, a Zambian national, is a winner of the World Bank Africa 2019 Blog4Dev regional competition.