When it hit, it sure did right below the belt! It was a total surprise. One that has tasked Africa to the extremes of her political, social and economic fronts. Not too many people saw it coming home to Africa, except of course for the WHO which predicted the spread and adverse effects of the pandemic in Africa.
For a Continent with over 55% of it’s workforce in the informal sector, the outbreak of the pandemic in Africa spelt only one thing: total disruption! And yet, even the small fraction of the workforce in the formal sector couldn’t escape the invisible blast.
All across most parts of Africa, formal working hours reduced to half the time with half the usual workforce. The informal workforce literally ground to a halt owing to the forced lockdowns effected by African governments out of panic and without proper planning for sustainable support mechanisms. Well, we all know the outcome. Reduced workforce and work time leads down only one path: decrease in productivity and hence, decrease in economic activity and revenue.
But alas! There is a green lawn and a bright light to the spread of the pandemic in Africa. A light that, unfortunately, Africa may not have discovered at this time, perhaps sometime in the next decade.
The light of the 4th Industrial Revolution! The light of digital technologies! The light of digital presence, commerce, marketing, engineering, Medicare, and the list can stretch another mile into infinity.
Never before have African youths been so addicted to digitization. Forced to stay at home for months, forced to distance oneself from the very next other, forced to look within and generate solutions to a global problem; African youths took to digital technology.
Forced to keep the society thriving, African youths embraced e-learning, even conducting targeted lectures on radio and television stations across the Continent. Yes they still held their meetings even more regularly because they discovered online meeting platforms. They turned to digital commerce and increased patronage of online stores. Be it from fashion, through books to home appliances, African youths dove headlong into digital commerce.
The result of this major shift in paradigm?
African youths are coming to grips with the impact of the digital ecosystem across social and economic fronts. They are fast delving into 4th Industrial Revolution dynamics such as artificial intelligence (AI), AR/VR techs, programming, IoT, holographic tech, digital debits, 3D/4D techs, gamification, deep learning, and the list goes on.
The implication of these impacts is that if sustained, Africa will catch up with the evolving digital trends and provide solutions within the digital ecosystem. It means that African governments will have to make huge investments in digital infrastructure to contain and advance the youth drive for digitization.
A remarkable step in the African youths drive for digitization is the recent organization of the Kick Out Covid Africa (KOCA) campaign. This event is Africa’s biggest Virtual Concert and campaign bringing together over 100 of Africa’s finest musicians, movie personalities, entrepreneurs, leaders, comedians and social influencers.
This weekly event runs for six months across 25 episodes where these influential celebrities of African descent will lend their voices and raise funds to assist African governments in the fight against COVID19.
Still on the flip side of the coin, the pandemic has also enabled African youths establish stronger bonds with their sister communities in the diaspora. All thanks to Covid19 and the forced lockdowns, the continental barriers between Continental Africans and Diasporan Africans have been erased through the forced resort to digital solutions in order to sustain communications, as well as social, economic and even political interactions.
It is no longer business as usual. Yes, the pandemic may have taken Africa by surprise. But then African youths have taken their bulls by the horns and once more exemplified that age-long African spirit of resilience.
When the pandemic coin was tossed down, African youths simply took a look at the flip side of vast and glaring opportunities for digitization. And we strongly hope this drive only burns in the hearts of the African youth with the intensity of an unstoppable wild fire!
Good luck on the flip side, great African youths!
Ginger W. K Okore
is a 4th Industrial Revolution advocate. He is passionate about Africa and the African Diaspora. He is active in African development initiatives across a network of affiliated organizations and global brands. He is a Lead Content Developer for OLSD.