Gig Economy in Africa: Will It Be A Success Or A Failure?


>>Ladies and gentlemen,
thank you for joining us. I hope this will be an
exciting conversation for us to share. My name is Tumelo
Mothotoane , and I am going to host
this conversation , hoping that you will
also participate. I would like to
introduce our panellists joining us today. We have Ibrahim Patel , the Minister of trade
and industry from South Africa on my left. I am joined by any be any — Winnie Byanyima , and we also have
in front of me, the head of operations from
the USA. We also have Olajumoke Adekeye from Nigeria. Last but definitely not
least, we are joined by Moussa Oumarou . He is from Geneva. Ladies and gentlemen,
thank you so much for your time. To start the
conversation into some context into the economy which is our theme for
this sitting, I am sure we can all attest to the
fact that the digital platform has offered
avenues for formalising the job market is that
we see in Africa. With that being said,
we have seen a responsibility coming
from government and global business
leaders to make sure there are safe labour
practices within the economy. I suppose my question,
just to start off our team and our introduction
is, can we define the economy from a different
perspective within organisations,
but also, with that said, what approaches
do you think holds the greatest promises
to achieve and advance and inclusive
as well as a dignified economy? Minister, I will
start with you.>>Thank you very much. I would like to make
three points in response. The first is the economy
is happening. Africa is digitising, not
as fast as we need to , but always in the areas
we need to, but it is the digital economy that
is transforming the continent. Secondly, it comes with
enormous challenges and huge opportunities. Challenges around
disruption in the lives of workers and technology has
always been a great disrupter. Throughout the ages,
whether it is the technology that we use,
the broadcast or to speak or to drive. Technology, by its
nature, is a disrupter. There are also enormous
new challenges because this is not simply a
continuation of new technologies. Artificial intelligence
changes the game. Traditionally, machines, technology
replaced muscle and human beings moved
to more brain work. What artificial
intelligence will do is take more of that and digitise that, bringing powerful algorithms
and so on to that. powerful algorithms
and so on to that. So, one has got to think
about the issues of So, one has got to think
about the issues of jobs . So, challenges but she
job opportunities. Our lives have always
been enriched by and large by technology. It is a. Good in society full of
the challenges have been unequal access to it, and
unequal development, that necessary technologies are not
always supported. The final point I want
to make is we, as policymakers, as businesses and trade
unions, as society at large, we can shape
the economy . Public policies matter . Partnership arrangements
matter, and so, when we see . Today, a report was
released in South Africa that says that the
digital economy is likely to cause the
loss of some 3.3 million jobs in South
Africa alone. It also said, with the
right policy mix, it can create 4.5 million jobs. So, you can have
a net geek — gain. We now need to look at
what are the public policies that unlock opportunities. What other social plans
to transition actual human beings ? Someone is displaced
here, and you will not always finds that. The steps are skill enhancement, infrastructure, infrastructure, enabling ecosystem,
access to funding for young entrepreneurs young entrepreneurs and partnerships,
partnerships with the private sector, more broadly in society. It is not just a
generic issues. In basic schooling, it is
looking at issues like coding, teaching children
the language of the digital economy. In higher education
and perhaps even high school learning,
it is insuring that learning
is no longer as fact based as
it was before. You learn to learn. It has to be more agile,
more adaptable because we don’t know, in fact, what the technologies
of the future are.>>Let me ask you
to come in. As you give your
introduction to the digital economy
and your perspective, help us understand the
challenges as you have seen in South Africa . We have seen protests, and that the
crux of them have been inequality and
employment. inequality and
employment. You have been unable
to employee — Access markets.>>Thank you very much. I start on a point
of optimism. There is so much that is
digital economy can do for us, to bring jobs
that are good, that identifying , to bring jobs that would put people
to work. But what we are seeing is the economy is taking
us right back to Dickensian times. Where conditions of work , where children are
working in minds, working long hours. And all that is not
because of the technology but because of
our governments. Other governments. And because of the release of Silicon
Valley, the fat cats of the capital. They are to maximise things, and there is no
adult in the room to rein them in. With the Minister has
that was music to my ears. We need to have our
governments not sitting there watching the digital economy
happened to us like it is whether orange
falling on us. But you actually regulate
it, and regulate it in favour of ordinary
people. Sorry, I am going
to talk about Cuba. I see them every day. I wish you could bring
the drivers who take me every day here in this
room to talk about the digital economy. That is when you
would know. If I talk about
something. A young man drives a car, that car he drives is owned
by somebody else , he has owned
the platform of Goober. I pay him one dollar for a ride near my home . That one dollar, 20%
goes to this platform. The silicon
valley boss. 20%. Then the owner of the
car takes a share of that. Then some goes to fuel and servicing the car. In the end, this
guy sleeps . He works 22 hours in order to
get anything. You must work many,
many hours. Then, he doesn’t see. He
can’t afford a room so he sleeps . Six of the rent one
room and each one has their hour to sleep or hours to sleep and
then they have to get out for the next one. This is the job. This is a job that
he has from the platform. It has just been
losing cases in terms of these
conditions of work. They are saying
that it is a transport company but on the other hand
making contracts for these people and saying
no, you’re not our drivers. You are businessmen
owning your own businesses , just borrowing
our platform. Therefore, we can’t give
you a rise, minimum wage, paid holiday. We need to get
governments to step in and say you are employing these
drivers, give them a minimum wage. Give them a paid holiday
and could conditions of work. For me, I don’t have
an issue with the technology. I have an issue with
our governments who just decided
to sit back and let the rich owners run
away with the benefits and crash millions
of people. That is my issue and
we have seen that. That is my issue and
we have seen that.>>We have seen that
in reports where taxi drivers have been
in conflict with others. Some of their cause have been that there
is no regulation. There has been a
disruption and they were not ready for it, not
educated, not made aware. But I suppose. Give us
some perspective of the value chain. What development is
therefore the partners that you say you have with the drivers, but
also, what challenges have you experienced as
a technology company?>>There is quite a
lot to unpack here. I want to address some
of your points as a starting point. It upsets me to hear that
story that you have just described. That is not the
organisation that we want to build across the continent. I can recount a number of
positive stories where there are ideas of
builders — drivers who are building their own companies. They now own their
own vehicles. We have over 50,000
partners across the continent, and in a world
where jobs are being shared by traditional
industries, by companies that are employing employ
use in a traditional way, it is very important
that we move towards the future. I think a couple of
points speaking generally, and I will
address some of the points you have
touched upon. We think about the future
of work into four main categories. The first is access
ability. That is how can we make
economic opportunities more accessible to driver
partners, and we do that through technology. There are checks and
balances that drivers need to go through, but
the barrier of entry is relatively low. Yes, you do need a smart
phone and have access to that, but that access
point is relatively low, and I believe we have
made an industry which is a traditional one,
a lot bigger than it previously was. So, to Minister Patel’s
point, this becomes a net contributor to ward
jobs which is very much needed where we have a lot of unemployment. The next point
is flexibility. In your example, it
sounds like there was no flexibility,
but we believe that drivers do
have flexibility. One of the top reasons,
and we have shared data that we can show, but
one of the top reasons people choose the organisation is
because of lax ability. Nobody is telling them
what areas they need to be in and what
time of day. Another point is that
we have driving our limits which
actually limits the number of hours that
drivers can spend on the app. To your point, it is not
in anyone’s interest for a driver to be
working 18 or 20+ hours. That is putting their own
lives at risk, as well The third point
as protections. Drivers drive injury
protection. A point that has been
called upon by you and Minister Patel, we ask for regulation
that governs this more formally. If there is formal
regulation we will be able to do more. The way that things
stick today, drivers have injury protection. Death and disability
cover, medical cover in the event
of an accident. We are doing our bit
to provide social protections. The final pieces
around providing the skills. We have a number
of initiatives, a partnership where partners , drivers get literacy training. We have an institute in Kenya
focus on female drivers, they will get
access to entrepreneurial skills. Virtual and in person. This will eventually
be extended to their families. There are a number of
ways we’re trying to There are a number of
ways we’re trying to move towards the future. In the real world
we live in. SPEAKER: Let me give you
a chance to give your perspective.>>I am going to
speak in French.>>I am going to
speak in French. I’m not that confident
in English. I will give you the term. What I would like to say , we have spoken about
technology, flexibility. What I wanted to
add is technology has positive aspects. And it is progress
of course. Its use will be unavoidable. We have to master
the technology. We have to manage it . So it helps mankind. It has to be in favour,
for the benefit of mankind. Today Today , the good economy
we are talking about resembles the informal sector we spoke about in the past . There are no official
contracts , formal contracts, you
are an independent worker. There is no relationship
between employer, employee, you don’t have an
employer in front of you. You don’t have
Social Security , working conditions. You don’t benefit from
the minimum wage. This does not only apply
to the informal economy. It also applies
to the gig economy. The question we have to
raise is not that they gig economy does not
create employment. It stars. In this regard , international labour organisation
has undertaken a study labour organisation
has undertaken a study in the five continents. We interviewed
over 500 workers from the gig economy. This study showed those who work in the
gig economy do not benefit from
minimum wage, they do not have
Social Security. They do not have
access to training opportunities. In my mind, it represents challenges that we will have to
find solutions to. Today. This gig economy applies to the
five continents . Wondering what type
of regulation we can implement… In order to protect
the rights of the actors in the good economy. To protect their rights,
whether talking about independent workers,
associates, we have to ensure
they have rights. These are the
fundamental rights of all workers. They have to
be protected. And through this
social protection we have to ensure they were a number
of hours that is sad. They cannot work for all
these years without any control. Control and regulation. It is not It is not sustainable. We have to have
a platform to protect these
workers. At the level of the ILO, we have an experience that could be used in
order to regulator sector. We have set up a world
commission on the future of work. Of labour. This world committee has made recommendations. Recommendations in
relation to the regulation of digital
work and online labour. The ILO has done a lot of
work in this area. It has promoted the
adoption of the maritime convention. We have sailors who work all
over the world. Thanks to the
intervention of the ILO, we have managed to sign this convention , to get the convention
adopted at a global level. So we can do it. It is possible to
regulate this type of economy. This is what I wanted
to say in brief. On the African continent where we have access . Lack of access
to electricity . Where there is a lack
of access to the digital tools today , the gig economy
is not the panacea. It is not a
magic bullet. It is still a limited
sector of the economy. We still have the
informal sector that employs that employs much more . A much higher number
of people. That is it. We can regulate
the economy. Thank you.>>Regulation. Can you give
an introduction for it and have a discussion, as you answer . Give your perspective . I’d like you
to talk about the inclusivity
of exclusivity of the gig economy, where in the continent we witness the
digital divide. It is exciting before
the Industrial Revolution is approaching
us. I fear that in the continent, not everyone has a
smart phone, internet , to share. They are left out of benefiting from
this economy.>>Thank you for that. I have a slightly
different view on my definition of the
gig economy. I believe the gig economy
has been in existence before we had
technology. I come from Nigeria, the
most populous country on the continent. The largest economy
on the continent. We have one in five
sub Saharan Africans being Nigerian. What is interesting about that context . Right from secondary
school you have young students , young women , making some money
on the side. making some money
on the side. They are taking
photography lessons to cover events
on the weekends. They go through
secondary school, university. Start working. They have this side gigs , they may have full-time
employment , they may be artists
and draw, paint. A n d engaged in a
side hustle. It is a form
of gig economy. It is a form
of gig economy. I would like to emphasise something
that was said, in a lot of ways that is the gig economy. What we have with the advent of technology is the digital , platform economy. It’s now creates a
different power structure. So where previously
it was a transaction. Between someone
who was able to make, give the cakes,
get the money. But we have a company. Let’s take Ube r, Silicon Valley, has a lot of power over these drivers. There is a power
structure that is created. So there is a need
for regulation. We talk about the
need for protection. All of a sudden you have
an entity that has so much power and is able. It is not just political
power in some cases. But economic power. It creates a need for us to start looking
very carefully at the structures. It is important for us
to recognise his stroke lead we had the gig
economy for a long time. There are new power
structures created when we have the digital
world. It is important
to take note of. A lot of young people,
answering your question , it is real. For a lot of us
who live in the urban areas on our continent , it is easy for
us to forget. Close to 70% of populations live
in rural areas. They may not have access
to smart phones. But increasingly technology companies like Facebook
are creating mobile friendly apps . So they have a small phone that comes with
the China phones, they come with Facebook
apps already on their phones. The reality is we see some economic
divide. It is not as Moussa Oumarou
was saying. It is the digital
platform, it is not making a dent on unemployment rates. In Nigeria the National bureau
of statistics for quarter to 2018, the last time they
published on employment statistics, but it at 23%. It has been steadily
increasing. Uber came to Nigeria in 2014. Unit at the statistics. You have quite a number of drivers will stop in Nigeria. There are competitors
in. You still see the potential age . The percentage, unemployment is
still increasing. The last point
I want to make , thinking about the
digital economy. I like the framework that was talked about with innovation. The likes of taxi taxi apps like U ber fall into efficiency innovations. And the essence is that efficiency innovations,
sustaining innovation, thinking about iPhones with the iPhone four,
five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, you are generating
income. It sustains the existing market. Apps, Apps, Air B n B provide efficiencies. The last form of innovation is the market creating
innovation. That is going to be
the game changer for creating more jobs
on the continent. An example that I
really appreciate , bringing in bringing in mobile technology
to the continent, it was not the most . In Africa In Africa , the most conducive for that to be brought , that technology. But he ensured he had the mobile phone
technology infrastructure and working . But in his own
electricity, brought in his
own water. He needed to provide
training and education. In that way . What was innovative
about his approach , apart from bringing
everything to make his business successful,
instead of subscriptions that Africans would
not be able to afford because of their
income level. To have pay as
you go credit. Those are the types of
innovations that will make dense and
unemployment. They might be apart
of the gig economy. Those are the types of
businesses we should start looking at. What would push the
needle in terms of jobs on the continent.>>Due to time, we have
less than 20 minutes left, we will open
up the discussion. Keep it as brief
as you can.>>I wanted to raise
two other points. Even in the face of governments admiring digital
technology , platforms. Instead of regretting
them. There is hope. I have come across
platforms where ordinary people are taking charge , owning them and using them for themselves. There is a platform
I heard about called There is a platform
I heard about called Up and Go, they are women who own
it for themselves. They use it. They get about 95% of the money they make . Only 5% for servicing
the platform. So you say why should I take 20% from this work. Yes, this is what
I’m saying. I know here here , I stay in a posh hotel. In many countries
where I go I stay in and Air Bn B because it is cheaper. Recently had a strange
experience because I got in
and the owner said , ” I have the cutest dog,
please love my dog.” When I got there , there was a huge
animal like this. I cannot describe
the night. The point is , what can someone
also do for us. B B nB , where the owners
get the money. Not some rich person who created the app. as the lives of
their passengers. Another thing about this
digital platform is that they are cheating
on tax. They have found a
system of taxation where they can just
get away without paying their taxes. So, you have them
widening inequalities because they are making a
lot of money, it is not coming back to create new
jobs, and it is not coming back into
government in order to roll out
social services, so that is an issue. They have been losing cases in court
about this because they are able to say my intellectual property
is sitting in a particular country,
then they create another country , the Cayman Islands or
somewhere, then the shift them by saying that the
intellectual property has moved to another
country. Therefore, I am going to get a tax reduction for
the next 10 years. All these tricks that digital companies
can play to avoid ploughing back . It is a serious problem. SPEAKER: Let’s
ask the Minister. Especially the point
around tax avoidance.>>The traditional
economy proceeded the digital
economy, so it is short of contracts , all of that, and I
think it was in 2004 that the International
Labour Organization brought together the
business community, governments, trade
unions to say how do we deal
with this? They develop something
that they call an employee relationship. We have to disguise
implement but We have to disguise
implement but the contractual term is all about systems which are factually unclear . Finally, there is triangular relationships where
there are three parties to a relationship. Not just an employer/employee. So, the complexity
of work has been significantly upped in the digital space. So, governments have
found ways to deal , not in every country,
but in South Africa, we have done some steps to
deal with traditional informality. At the digital space
does, technology has an introduction to
the economy, and that creates enormous
opportunities. I am all about
the optimism of economy, and what is
required is that social systems have this
opportunity and can give it to young people, and
to do it in a fair way. Fairness and solidarity
are not only important values
but timeless ones. They are implied over various injuries,
so if I take the issue of stepping away from
employment relationship to the issue of taxation,
tax systems need to be updated. There is a deep
discussion in the World Trade
Organisation right now about issues like taxation of e-commerce. And they are obviously
very different points of view about this. When e-commerce is a tiny
part of retailing, it almost doesn’t matter. almost doesn’t matter. When it becomes the
dominant way in which we buy and sell things , it matters enormously
for the integrity of the tax base which contributes
to keeping society together. Health, education, all
these things that governments need to do to
ensure that we future proof society. So, what this means
is that not only with employee relationships, adaptations have to take
place, as with so many other policies. Training is really
at the heart of ensuring that human beings
get a fair deal out of the new
opportunities of the digital economy.>>There were a couple
of points there. The first as I would
like the opportunity to engage directly because
there was a lot to discuss and we will not
unpack it in this time. We are creating a
transparent managerial point. Anyone who takes an
app can talk to the driver. We cannot hide the truth
of what is happening. Another point is we don’t
believe in minimum wage which is a topic that has
been raised a number of time. We believe in a living
wage for driver partners, and that is
very important in terms of using technology. Another point I will
touch in if the tax piece. I will use the example.
In Nairobi, there have been Parliamentary
hearings with a number of Silicon Valley-based
companies appearing and we were the only one who
stood up and said that we are for digital
taxation. Others said no but we
stood up and this is on record and in the public. We are supportive
of a digital tax. And we believe that there
should be a tax but that it should be fair. These are all things
which we agree on and I take optimism from that,
whether it is regulation or digital tax
or living wage. or digital tax
or living wage. These are things we are
working towards, but the regulatory environment
has to be conducive. If we try to do things
in the old way, we are going to be continuing to
live in a world where there is 3% unemployment.>>I have a question. They say that sunlight is
the best disinfectant. Would you organisation
be willing to publish, country by country, the profits it makes
at the taxes it pays ? Publicly, country
by country? Publicly, country
by country?>>I am not . I am not that
decision-making. We are a listed company
said there is a lot of information available. I think with that, there
is an increased level of transparency. This is something the new
CEO has spoken about openly so I welcome
the opportunity. We have conducted a
number of studies across African and global cities
and countries where we can release data around driver
sentiment so these are all things which, through
technology, are available and the easiest way to
do it is getting in the car and speaking
to the driver. It is important to us. Another big point is
the fact that there is competition. If Cuba is not providing help, users will go
to another app. It is important that
we provide the highest value because ride
sharing is a commodity, whether we like
it or not. We need to ensure that
we bring value and that is our commitment.>>We have 10
minutes left.>>I would like to ask a
question or stop I have noted that the
organisation is using practices
that are different to those of other
such organisations. You have mentioned
social protection of your drivers, but at the level of your organisation, is
there a right for the drivers to join
a union movement , to have collective
bargaining, or. This is important . This is a fundamental
right of workers . This is a critical
issue. If we want technology to be used for good and to move forward
rather than move backwards, we have
to take this into consideration. Since we are talking
about technology, it supposes that , to use this technology,
we have necessary skills , but to date, traditionally, in order
to acquire skills, to train the people and
to acquire the skills for different tasks, we have to do this with
the involvement of the employer or business. In the case of
the gig economy. We employ people on
a temporary basis , so this is
temporary work . How can we ensure that these workers now
and I’ve kept up-to-date with the evolution
of the sector ? What are we going
to do to help these workers? With all that
we are using, we will like behind,
I think. It is important to assign responsibility as far as training and
upscaling is concerned. People can adapt to the various ways in
which these jobs aren’t going to evolve,
but today, the economy as it stands
is not guaranteed this opportunity to train , so we will have to notice use technology
haphazardly but to make sure it is supported by systems in order to put the human being
at the centre of our interventions, protecting
the worker, regulating the sector and making sure that training, education and
upscaling is taken into account as well. This is an emerging
phenomenon, and of course, as any emerging
phenomenon, we have to ensure that we regulate
this sector whilst respecting the
fundamental rights of the workers by respecting their right to privacy to a personal life. These are principles
that we have to apply, and it is possible
to do that. I gave you a comparison
with the maritime convention that
was adopted which protects sailors . They are regulated
by various laws depending on the ports
that they are using , depending on which flag they are
working under. So, it is very important
to adopt international
regulations to protect these workers, and
it is possible and doable, but we have
to do it in a very intelligent manner
by involving the gig economy workers,
by involving the operators of the sector , and by involving , of course, the
government. They are responsible for
the regulation of the sectors.>>I think one area that
we may not have touched on so far is , when we think about the
platform economies, thinking about data that
is being gathered and who owns the data. As we think about
the fourth resident — for the industrial
revolution, we recognise the place of data , thinking about
artificial intelligence, recognising that a number
of people are saying that data is going
to be the new oil. Now, if we think about
the companies . Earlier, we talked about
a new power structure dynamic. We think about apps that have
information about people’s movements,
about transportation . . They have information
about people’s identities. To the point that was just made, about
protecting human beings and ensuring that workers
are protected, I think it is also important for
governments to also start to consider this
issue and concern of gathering data
on population , so a company
like Goober have information
about areas in — and as we study think
about before the Industrial Revolution and
technology and how that advances, the stated then
becomes something that can be traded, that can
make money, so I think it is important, as
was just highlighted, it is important, as
was just highlighted, that we have emerging
technologies and it is important to begin to
consider what having such data in the hands of
private sector in terms of private companies, several thousands of
nationals, what that means for the sovereignty
of the country, but also, in the next five to
10 years, I think that is important.>>Unfortunately,
we have to wrap up our very important
conversation but I would like to thank each and
everyone of you for participating. I think at the crux of
our discussion, we are hearing more of fair
labour practice, protection of workers,
being able to make sure that everyone benefits from this
economy, but also, just bridging the
digital divide , the skills gap, and
that is also important in making sure that
Africans are empowered in this economy and are not further
exploited. I do so much for
your time. Thank you for joining us.

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