1 June 2023

Platform Economy

Gender-Responsive Skilling Opportunities for African Women

Much like other parts of the world, the platform economy in Africa is ripe with potential. With over 365 platforms in operation, many of which are homegrown, platforms have become a vital avenue of livelihood for many individuals on the continent. But this cannot be confidently said for women in Africa, who while having greater access to technology than their counterparts across the world, lack the necessary skills training to participate in a digitally enabled world.

As it stands, the agriculture sector is the largest employer of women across the continent of Africa, but work in this sector is largely informal, precarious, and low productivity. The platform economy, then, is expected to have the potential to offer women moving away from agriculture and other sectors with secure and formalized jobs. But this has two fundamental problems: (i) platform work is not inherently formal or empowering, and (ii) many women who leave agriculture do not have access to technology or possess the education and skills necessary to make the shift in a way that significantly improves their economic outcomes.

To remedy this skills gap, the African Union identified Technical and Vocational Training Education (TVET) as a solution. However, we find that despite this unique avenue of training and education, the uptake amongst women remains low. For instance, despite agriculture being a women-dominated field, very few women accessed agriculture-related TVET programs. This issue of access is critical because it makes clear that in addition to women being relegated to specific occupations, education itself is becoming gendered. In a rapidly digitizing world, training and education programs for women are necessary to ensure they bear an equal amount of benefits. As a result, the lack of uptake and gender bias within TVET programs is alarming.

This can be addressed through a socio-technical response as simply creating TVET programs is not sufficient. It is critical that countries like Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa ensure that TVET institutions are not sites of reproduction of patriarchal dynamics. This can be done by ensuring TVET spaces are gender-responsive by hiring more women instructors and staff members, offering gender sensitivity training to existing instructors and staff members, guaranteeing toilets for women and childcare facilities, and avoiding gender bias in the curriculum.

While TVET is just one part of the puzzle, ensuring gender-responsive delivery of TVET can have a cascading effect on female labour force participation in Africa by opening up more formalized and secure avenues of employment for women. It can also ensure that gaps between skills demand and job availability, which lead to overeducated people being in low-skilled jobs, are also addressed. There are undeniable economic benefits, such as increased productivity, additional revenue for the mobile industry, and an overall increase in GDP from ensuring women’s access to digital skilling opportunities. But beyond the economics of women’s participation in the platform economy, this also presents an opportunity to enhance their quality of life while squashing patriarchal dynamics.

by Angeline Wairegi, Apoorva Dhingra

About the Author / Organization

Angeline Wairegi

Apoorva Dhingra

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