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Will technology render you jobless?

By XN Iraki | July 14th 2021
A humanoid robot with a shopping trolley [Courtesy]

You no longer need someone to drop off cheques to a bank.

And the future of cheques is not quite as bright as it used to be. Electronic funds transfer (EFT) and M-Pesa are the future. That means job losses. Again, banking is one sector shedding jobs like a cat sheds fur because of technology breakthroughs. We shall soon have virtual banks as some loan platforms have demonstrated. 

Even the education sector is experiencing a revolution. We have seen one tutor teach across continents.

That technology has invaded every sector is not contestable. Even our kitchens are just shy of automating the cooking of ugali. Even machines have been picking tea from tea farms and grapes from vineyards for a while now. At the port, cranes have replaced porters. Everyone is determined to use technology; from the rising  of the sun to its setting, technology is on the match. Will that kill hustling as we know it today?

Hustling thrives when there is demand for muscle power. Remember lumbering before the birth of power saws? Days when mkokotenis (hand-pulled carts) were used to move houses before pickup trucks and lorries took over? Noted how courier jobs have grown while the post office struggles? There are fewer messengers to deliver information, but M-Pesa and short text messages (SMS) have done so well. Cashiers will also lose their job because of growing Information and Communications Technology (ICT).   

In a country like Kenya, where joblessness is a big issue, we may be tempted to halt technology to create jobs. But we should not. The job losers will seek other jobs where there is growth and that may need an upgrade of skills. 

Have you heard of Schumpeter’s gale of creative destruction? This is where old technology is replaced by a new and superior one. The problem in Africa is that we rarely come up with the new technology to destroy the last one. M-Pesa is an exception to that. Now, who will be swept away by online learning and virtual banking?  

Every gale of creative destruction sweeps away a generation of hustlers. Many people were replaced or deprived of cars due to emergence of cars, rail, phone, dish washer, gas cooker, among others. That means we can‘t resist the use of technology, we just have to upskill and take up the new opportunities created by the technology. 

We also need to be the originators of the new technology so that our displaced hustlers get new and better jobs because fact is, new technology will decimate a group of jobs. Have you been replaced by technology? Please share with us your story.

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