Home |  Contact UsSitemap



The Future of Women’s Work in Africa

Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA)


This Issue of BUWA! offers feminist critiques of the current discourses framing the future of work in Africa. This is a very timely and critical theme given that there is a marked interest globally in better understanding and predicting the future of work. A number of research institutions, think tanks and others interested in labour and occupational issues have since invested in research and created platforms that have enabled debate on this issue. For instance, in 2013, the ILO initiated a global dialogue on the future of the work that we want. This led to the establishment of the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work in 2017. The Open Society Foundation (OSF) also invested in an initiative exploring the issue which seeks to understand how technologies, for instance, will likely impact the vulnerable communities OSF cares about. The World Economic Forum (WEF) published a report in January 2016 focusing on The Future of Jobs.1 In the report, the WEF estimates that 65 percent of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new jobs – jobs that don’t yet exist.

A few assumptions and theories underpin this global interest and current preoccupation with the future of work. One key theory is that the proliferation of technology will have very significant impacts on jobs and work as we currently know them, such that some jobs could be completely obliterated while new ones may be conceptualised. Another major assumption is that developments in the world of technology – dubbed the fourth industrial revolution – and related advancements in artificial intelligence and data-driven economies might render human capital irrelevant in the future. For instance, the 2016 WEF report predicts that 41 percent of all work activities in South Africa are susceptible to automation, as are 44 percent in Ethiopia, 46 percent in Nigeria, and 52 percent in Kenya. Automation means that a new set of job skills will be required.

However, much as the ‘future of work’ has found a firm space in the discourses shaping the global work agenda, there is limited debate and reflection in Africa – let alone among African feminist economists – on this subject. For a number of reasons feminists need to be shaping these narratives as well as the response strategies ensuing from them. Firstly, because of the already existent gap in gendered perspectives in interpreting global and local processes that have unfolded in the past few years. The second reason is the reality that women on the African continent predominantly occupy precarious and vulnerable positions in job value chains while there is a dearth of analysis on what impacts the fourth industrial revolution and other factors might have in either increasing or mitigating these vulnerabilities. Third, existing gender gaps in technology adoption and use on the continent warrants a closer analysis of what the future holds for women in Africa against the backdrop of increasing inequalities among women due to differential geo-localities and related socioeconomic factors. For African feminists, the debates about the future of work are not just about the changing dynamics in the kind of activities and how these activities will be done. Rather, the debates ought also to be about the power dynamics and positioning of African women in the global economic and political schemes.




01 Editorial
Alice Kanengoni
05 The future of work for women in Africa: Crises and opportunities
Masego Madzwamuse and Kofi Kouakou
11 Globalisation and the future of women’s work
Marina Durano
18 Women’s work in the context of closing civic space
Lyn Ossome
23 The gender and labour question in the future of work discourses in Southern Africa
Sandra Bhatasara and Tamuka Charles Chirimambowa
29 Women’s informal employment in Africa: New terrain of worker struggles
Sally Roever and Caroline Skinner
34 Women in the informal sector in Zambia: Resistance and mobilising tactics
Ruth Kanyanga Kamwi
39 Organising domestic workers: The unfinished business of labour movements
Shawna Bader-Blau
43 Muscle Mary
Mercy Wandera
44 The changing world of work: Policy considerations for a better future for women in Africa
Naome Chakanya
49 Trade liberalisation and women’s employment in Africa: Towards a level playing field
Amal Elbeshbishi
54 Digging for gold in unknown lands: The implications of migration for African women’s labour, their future, and empowerment
Busisekile Khumalo
59 Gender-responsive tax rulemaking to shape the future of women’s informal cross-border trade in Malawi
Bernadette Malunga
63 South Africa’s social care sector and the introduction of a minimum wage: No joy in sight for women non-profit workers
Lisa Vetten
68 Towards decent work for women in Eastern Africa’s horticulture sector
Eunice Musiime
73 New Liberia Land Rights Act: A bridge to women’s economic security and employability
M Sahr Nouwah
77 African women work hard
Namatsi Lutomia
78 Is microfinance a ‘magic bullet’ for the achievement of gender equality and women’s empowerment in Africa?
Marvis Bih
84 Women’s empowerment in Africa’s enterprise economy model
Joyce Chimbi
89 The foundation that wants women to ditch handicrafts and get political
Jumana Farouky
92 The solidarity economy and women’s livelihoods: What are the prospects?
Bernadette Wanjala
96 Women, precarity, and the political economy of the fourth industrial revolution
Tinashe Chimedza
102 Queernomics: A queer eye for the straight economy
Vuyokazi Futshane
107 Women’s work begins in the mind: Releasing women’s creative capacity to improve their entry into and experience of the workplace
Tsitsi Dangarembga
112 Young women in the world of work: Cheques and balances in the creative economies
Ntombi Mkandla
116 The future of sex work on the African continent
Megan M Schmidt-Sane and Macklean Kyomya
121 How cryptocurrency can promote gender equality in Africa
Mako Muzenda
125 We, the creators: The role of young women in Africa’s creative economies
Grace Mashingaidze
128 Shaping the future of women’s work in Africa: A mental health perspective
Patience Zimunya
132 Unfit for purpose – African education systems are not suited to shaping gender-responsive futures for African women
Velaphi Mamba
137 Is this what it means to be a woman?
Yemurai Nhongo

Download the publication



Share content with FFD


Features Archive


new-sampnode-logo rockefeller-logo-footer-new

Foresight For Development - Funding for this uniquely African foresight site was generously provided by Rockefeller Foundation. Email Us | Creative Commons Deed | Terms of Conditions