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The rise of the African remote workforce

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The rise of the African remote workforce

The rise of the remote workforce

With the rise of broadband technology and a worldwide move towards the pursuit of a healthy work/life balance, the number of workers working remotely has increased exponentially over the past couple of decades. Research have conclusively proven that this extra flexible strategy to enterprise has had an enormously positive impact on worker engagement, enabling higher productivity and saving costs to both companies and their workforce.

Regardless of the evident success of this worldwide development, African enterprises have been moderately sluggish in maintaining pace, with comparatively few organisations implementing structures conducive to working remotely. While it appears counter-intuitive when considering international research, this cautious strategy to business is understandable given the present state of connectivity on the continent.

The connectivity conundrum

While Internet penetration has increased exponentially over the previous years with the emergence of 4G and LTE technology, the fact is just 9.3% of the African population are Internet users. (As at 31st March 2017 via internetworldstats.com). That presents a major problem for companies seeking to utilise the advantages of work-from-home capabilities.

Moreover, with the price of bandwidth being considerably greater, relative to the income in many other western countries, the economic benefit to business isn’t yet significant enough to spark a widespread remote revolution.

Whereas many senior managers and executives enjoy the benefits afforded by higher connectivity, there has been little done below the middle management level, with a majority of employees still relegated to on-site units for access to the Internet.

A switch to mobile

One other problem faced by local businesses at the moment is the relative scarcity of mobile apps enabling engagement on the go. With the overwhelming majority of Africans using mobile devices as their primary means of connectivity, this dearth of fully functional ERP suites signifies that workers don’t yet have the suitable tools at their disposal to break ties with the traditional office.

While this trend is slowly starting to change, with app developers changing into more and more mobile-minded in light of demand from consumers and enterprise alike, we’re unlikely to see a seismic shift anytime soon, given the complexities of the mobile environment and the constant evolution of smartphone technology.

“To realise this goal we need better infrastructure, proper management, a more efficient mindset and assessing workers should be more results-based” – Frank Asefuah

Looking forward

With Internet access expected to grow by 10.8% annually, it’s likely that mobile working will soon become more commonplace inside the business landscape.

As app developers become extra mobile-focused, and average broadband speeds inch steadily upwards, companies are more likely to capitalise on the various benefits afforded by remote workforces.

Current studies suggest that this transfer towards on-the-go business could not only improve local GDP, but in addition cut back commuting time by over 450 million hours – thus enormous savings in cost and time for both organisations and individuals.

Moreover, enterprises that depend on sales will be able to ensure optimum efficiency with complete ERP software in place, enabling reps to secure deals and file paperwork on the go, significantly lowering the need for tedious, time-consuming logistics.


Whereas the advantages of getting the capability to work remotely are hard to question, there are nonetheless many challenges to beat before this turns into a regular feature of the local business landscape.

Over and above the logistical challenges introduced by a fledgling mobile infrastructure, a move towards an out-of-office lifestyle may even require a major mindset shift for both staff and leaders throughout the continent.

Managing teams remotely relies on a skillset contrasting to that of an in-person leadership style, requiring leaders to implement a more hands-off strategy to overseeing projects, while remaining informed and accountable for issues at hand.

For remote working to achieve success, proper management is crucial, going hand-in-hand with the implementation of necessary, efficient techniques to make sure both optimal productivity and sufficient downtime. Moreover, it requires a transfer away from a traditional ‘clock in’ mentality,  pushing companies in the direction of  a results-based method when assessing workers – one thing that may be difficult for those not yet accustomed to it.

In brief, it seems probable that African sensibilities will slowly transition to a extra mobile mode of operation as broadband turns into more and more environment friendly, cheaper and accessible, together with a possible important shift in the direction of distant working inside the subsequent 4 to 6 years. What impression will this have on the African economic system? Only time will tell, but if we are to heed international success, the optimistic results are projected to be substantial.

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