Driving Africa's Future of Work through Digital Transformation: The Crucial Role of Systems Orchestrators

Youth unemployment is one of the most pressing challenges facing the African continent

Youth unemployment remains an acute challenge on the African continent, despite substantial economic growth in the past two decades (pre-COVID). The gap between GDP advancement and job creation has left approximately 83% of Sub-Saharan African youth entering the job market without employment opportunities.¹ With over 70% of Africa’s population under the age of 35,² this issue affects the young population the most. By 2070, those under 20 will constitute the largest share of Africa’s population, underscoring the urgency of addressing the slow pace of job creation.³

Discover how our report, “Advancing the Future of Work in Africa through Digital Transformation: The Role of Systems Orchestrators,” illustrates that with stable and empowered systems orchestrators – individuals or entities responsible for coordinating and managing digital transformation efforts – African countries can accelerate their progress in adopting digital technologies, ultimately achieving rapid socioeconomic development.

Digital transformation is essential for facilitating the growth of resilient labor markets, but it requires a systemic approach – through actors that we call ‘systems orchestrators’ 

Our experience shows that labor markets are highly interconnected, and that successful interventions to address youth unemployment and to make labor markets more resilient require transformative, systemic change. Siloed interventions that invest in training youth for the job market without ascertaining whether such skills are relevant to employers’ needs—and without ensuring the presence of pathways for employers to recruit and support the growth of new talent—are unlikely to lead to inclusive and sustainable impact.  

“Systems change” refers to “a comprehensive approach to social change that seeks to address the complex, large-scale, and deep characteristics of social issues.” Achieving systemic change in labor markets involves creating comprehensive systems that enable job seekers and employers’ access to skills, opportunities, meaningful connections, and better market visibility through data.

To illustrate the pragmatic role systems orchestrators, play, our report highlights two prominent initiatives that exemplify their contributions to African labor markets: The Jobs Creation Commission (JCC) in Ethiopia and AJIRA Digital in Kenya. 

How stakeholders can support systems orchestrators to advance the Future of Work in Africa through digital transformation 

Despite their critical roles, orchestrators often fall short or remain unrecognized. Our consultations with a diverse set of stakeholders, including donors, public sector officials, and private sector partners indicate that many ecosystem actors acknowledge the value of the skills and capabilities that systems orchestrators contribute.  

However, they highlight three barriers that limit investments into orchestrators:  

  1. Critical stakeholders are often not aware of the need for system orchestration
  2. Orchestrators can be difficult to establish
  3. It can be challenging to measure the orchestrators’ impact, which affects their access to resources

To overcome these three barriers and establish successful systems orchestrators, we propose three strategies that worth exploring:  

Strategy 1: Effectively advocate for systems orchestrators 

Strategy 2: Build orchestrators with the legitimacy and capacity to get the job done 

Strategy 3: Provide patient capital to account for the time needed to demonstrate success 

We call upon funders, governments, and private sector partners to take action. By creating systems orchestrators where they are lacking and supporting those already active, we can collectively accelerate Africa’s journey towards a future of work that is inclusive, resilient, and driven by digital transformation.

Download the report here. 

Dalberg uses cookies and related technologies to improve the way the site functions. A cookie is a text file that is stored on your device. We use these text files for functionality such as to analyze our traffic or to personalize content. You can easily control how we use cookies on your device by adjusting the settings below, and you may also change those settings at any time by visiting our privacy policy page.