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Are robots the key to reducing unemployment?

Read time 3min 30sec
Deseré Orrill, Ole!Connect
Deseré Orrill, Ole!Connect

With the rise of robots, machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), the employees of today are in panic mode about the state of their future career prospects. Will they have a job in 20 years’ time… 10 years’ time… or even next year?

The spectre of an apocalyptic, dwindling future workforce is terrifying for most people, especially in Africa, which is traditionally manpower-centric. 

But, the reality is that these super-intelligent machines and robots might well be doing humankind a massive favour.

“Machine learning will enable technology to replace the work of hands and the workplace of the future will probably include much more head-work,"  says Deseré Orrill, chairman of data-led marketing company Ole!Connect. "So it doesn’t necessarily mean that machines will reduce the number of jobs available,  they will change the way we work and the definition of what ‘work’ is,” 

Orrill, a successful global entrepreneur, will deliver the welcome address and chair the Future of Work session at AfricaCom 2019 at the CTICC on 13 November 2019.

Orrill will also moderate the discussion on Creating a Culture of Lifelong Learning, a topic, which big hitters Simon Rey (Ecobank), Yumna Tayob (FNB Bank) and Hendrik Malan (Frost & Sullivan) will all weigh in on. It’s an issue that is crucial to Africa’s harnessing of its human potential, and the panel will share their insights into how education and reskilling are key to Africa making the most of its human capital, as well as the importance of ensuring effective lifelong learning in the modern economy.

Future of Work @ AfricaCom 2019 will unpack a wide range of issues at the top of the agenda for business owners and industry leaders. In the African context this includes coming to grips with digital literacy for the modern workforce, building a solid talent pipeline and succession planning through reskilling, as well as strategic workforce planning to harness AI in order to improve organisations, as well as their employees.

However, it’s not just employees who face challenges in the new workplace frontier, as employers have to get a handle on issues such as understanding what the future of work means for employees and themselves, how to achieve executive support for new workplace initiatives, and how technology can play a game-defining role in human resources.

Business leaders will benefit from the discussion about harnessing workplace technologies, as well as using design thinking to create an integrated digital workplace. 

Discussions and presentations will include Leveraging New Ways of Working to Create Sustained Results in Africa, as well as a discussion on Closing the Skills Gap: Preparing for an Uncertain Future, moderated by Mooketsi Bennedict Tekere, CEO, Ngwana Enterprises with Devaan Parbhoo, Manager, Learning Design & Learning Development at Santam.

Humans in the workplace complete tasks with hands and heads but, also with heart. Orrill, who is completing her MBA in design thinking, highlights the fact that AI and ML cannot replicate human creativity, sensitivity and sensibility, which are essential ingredients in all creative and caring professions, along with those where human intuition and the fabled ‘6 sense’ play a role. 

“These functions and skills just can’t be replaced by machines, although machines and AI can certainly offer incredible support to the humans involved in these professions.  We also believe robots and automation will contribute to the creation of positive, dynamic and fluid workplaces of the future,” says Orrill. “In fact, in advanced economies where greater use of robotics, automation and AI is prevalent, unemployment today is at the lowest it has been in decades. So, the future of work is not a gloomy wasteland… on the contrary, it’s a bright and promising place.”

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