Fourth Industrial Revolution: What's in it for African Women?

The world of work is undergoing a revolutionary change with advances in technology, artificial intelligence (AI) and the use of ‘big data’. While there are emerging debates around Africa’s role within this evolving technological context, very little attention is being paid to how African women fit into this process. This policy briefing provides a nuanced analysis of the opportunities, threats and challenges posed by the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) for women in Africa. It shows that automation in productive sectors is placing women’s employment at risk, as they are largely found in low-skill and routinised professions. Studies show that in specific female-dominated industries, technology will reduce jobs. The other misgiving in Africa is that the 4IR, like its antecedents, will further entrench gender inequalities. This is based on the observation that most women are unlikely to benefit from technological advances, as they do not possess the skills to compete in the emerging knowledge economy. At the same time they are likely to experience the same improvements in the quality of life as everyone else. The briefing makes various recommendations, including building a policy framework to promote the education of girls in science and technology, and promoting female entrepreneurship in new opportunities, such as renewable energy and technology industries.