It’s hope and doom for Kenya as the rise of machines displace human labour, Tony Blair Institute report indicates

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair addressing journalists at Serena Hotel on adapting to the fourth industrial revolution in Tony Brain institution. [John Muchucha/Standard]
The rate of unemployment in the country is likely to rise further with thousands of employees in agriculture and manufacturing sector set to lose their jobs if Kenya fully adapt automation and digitisation.

A report by Tony Blair Institute for Global Change explores advancing automation consisting of the rise of robots and artificial intelligence which are set to reduce or eliminate dependence on low skilled labour.

The report released yesterday spells doom to Africa if governments do not prepare enough for the inevitable fourth industrial revolution (4IR) that is sweeping the world.

“Automation in manufacturing presents a threat to job creation, so governments will need to be innovative and adaptive in a rapidly changing global environment,” the report, Adapting to the 4IR: Africa’s Development in the Age of Automation, suggests.

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The findings cited in the report indicate there will be over 2.5 billion youth population in Africa by 2050 and 4.5 billion by 2100, a matter that poses a threat in the job sector as well as security in all countries in the world.

Although the report does not give figures of the youth population in Kenya staring at joblessness due to the rise of machines, the 2018 survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) indicate that about 1.4 million Kenyans were desperately looking for jobs.

The report captures the dilemma that Kenya faces even as it embraces new technological innovations in the Government’s ambitious manufacturing which is one of the key pillars of development.

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As the report indicates, the embrace of the revolution by countries in the continent was a complex matter that required proper deliberation by the Governments since it was a two-sided coin.

“The labour-substitution effect of automation threatens African economies’ ability to leverage manufacturing for job creation. This implies that manufacturing will become less reliant on low-skilled (mass) labour," states the report that only places engineers, programmers and other analytics-based professions on the buttered side of the toast.

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In the manufacturing sector, it is expected that the cost of production will be lower with the advent of new innovations which then leads to reduced price of manufactured goods.

Agriculture, considered Kenya’s economic backbone, is likely to improve if technological innovations such as use of surveillance machines, tea plucking machines among others are embraced.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday said there was hope of protecting jobs with proper policies.

“Success will be premised on how African governments and their economies adapt technological change,” said Mr Blair.

Information Communication and Technology CS Joe Mucheru said the evolution was likely to “cause forward-thinking policymakers concern.”

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UnemploymentTony Blair Institute for Global Change