NEMO Kennislink – the Dutch science journalism platform of NEMO, the largest science museum in the Netherlands – has recently published two news pieces, one discussing how African remote employees could help solve the Netherlands’ major shortage of IT professionals, and the other focusing on Africa’s lack of internet access compared to Europe. Both articles (written in Dutch) feature parts of an interview with UNU-MERIT researcher Bernardo Caldarola, an applied economist whose work investigates the impact of technology on the process of structural change. Caldarola is well-versed in the challenges and opportunities that exist in Africa with regards to technology; one of his latest research papers was on the impact of mobile internet adoption on micro-level structural change and inclusion in Nigeria.
In the first article, Hulp van Afrikaanse technici (‘Assistance from African technicians’), Caldarola explains that although the strategy of employing African tech talent as remote workers has clear advantages for the employed individuals (a high salary and a job that is not available in their home country), the fact that they are not working in the African market potentially inhibits entrepreneurship, which is one of the main pillars of the economy. Consequently, he believes that companies based in the Global North have a responsibility to contribute to their African employees’ education and help them develop entrepreneurial skills.
In the second, Afrika mist online aansluiting (‘Africa lacks online connectivity’), Caldarola states that while Africa is closing the internet gap due to the high uptake of mobile internet, Europe is already moving into the next paradigm of artificial intelligence, meaning that African companies are currently unable to compete with their European counterparts. He shares his perspective that African countries should opt for an economic strategy which focuses on protecting their own economy and building capital slowly, using China as a good example of how this can work successfully. African countries could do the same, he adds, by forming a bloc together to encourage specialisation and internal trade, before opening up to the global market.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of UNU.