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THE ROBOTS ARE COMING

If you’ve visited a modern factory in the last year or two and compare it with visiting a factory, say, 20 years ago, you were probably struck by the same observation: Where are all the workers?

You don’t have to visit factories to know that automation is a key plank in improving efficiency in manufacturing processes the world over. But, of course, this almost always means fewer people are needed to produce everything from paper clips to cars.

The impact of automation and advanced technologies on any hopes African countries might have in trying to replicate the rise of the Asia’s manufacturing hubs, is explored in a report by the Tony Blair Institute.

The prognosis for Africa isn’t great and it’s easy to see why. Firstly, as has been noted before, automation will be built into any factorieshoping to be competitive on a global stage and that means fewer of the low-skill jobs than might once have been plentiful in decades past. This has significant implications when most African countries have fast-growing young populations with high unemployment.

Of course, it would be way too simplistic to say automation or artificial intelligence guarantees doom and gloom for African economies and jobs. The report’s authors expect such technologies to have a positive social impact and to boost economic growth and development overall. Reading between the lines, some countries might see economic growth but not necessarily with jobs.

Ultimately, good adaptable policy will be required by African countries to prepare for automation. They’ll need to be flexible and innovative with everything from policy implementation to financing. One standout proposal from the report is for governments, via the African Union, to work together to develop a digital single market which “will offer more attractive opportunities for domestic and international entrepreneurs and investors than individual countries alone.”

— Yinka AdegokeQuartz Africa editor

STORIES FROM THIS WEEK

A recently discovered trove of photos shows life in Uganda during Idi Amin’s troubled reign. While Ugandans have long suppressed the notorious reign of Idi Amin, a new exhibit in Kampala showcases never-before-seen photo archives of Amin’s presidency and offers a space to discuss the country’s divisive and traumatic history.

Boeing’s problems with the 737 Max jets could worsen in court. Boeing this week said it would put aside a $100 million “outreach” fund to support the families and communities affected by the two 737 Max crashes that have killed 346 people in Indonesia and Ethiopia. Legal experts say that could pale in comparison with the ultimate punitive damages juries could impose if willful disregard is proven.

Google and Facebook are circling Africa with huge undersea cables to get millions more online. With rising growth in internet usage across Africa, Google and Facebook are rolling out high-capacity fiber-optic cables aiming to improve connectivity. The drive is to get even more users online and hopefully use their platforms over time.

A church rape scandal captures the harsh social realities for Nigerian women. A high-profile rape allegation against a popular Nigerian pastor has galvanized social media debate and re-ignited protests against the treatment of women in the country. But as Nigeria’s women rise up and push back, Saratu Abiola notes they encounter resistant cultural attitudes and intimidation.

Trouble in paradise at Cameroon president’s Swiss luxury getaway.As Cameroon faces challenges from Boko Haram terrorists and Anglophone-led insurgencies, president Paul Biya’s latest visit to a five-star hotel in Geneva has sparked protests from sections of the Cameroonian diaspora. Paula Dupraz-Dobias reports from Geneva on how the visit has also cast a shadow over Switzerland’s mediation role in peace talks.

Top American universities are doubling down on their presence across Africa. Carnegie Mellon University has just completed its $12 million Africa campus in the suburbs of Rwanda’s capital. Abdi Latif Dahir reports from Kigali on how many more top US colleges including Columbia and Stanford are following suit by establishing satellite offices, research centers, or specialized offshoot programs targeting business executives across the continent.

CHART OF THE WEEK

Is the plan for a single West African currency even realistic? After decades of delay, ECOWAS members have set the latest launch to next year for a single West African currency to be called, “Eco”. But, Quartz’s Yomi Kazeem learns the huge misalignment in members’ development levels, budget deficits and inflation rates present stumbling blocks for the adoption of a single currency in West Africa.

OTHER THINGS WE LIKED

Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed reforms have unleashed forces he can no longer control. For Foreign Policy Nizar Manek writes on the nation’s efforts to reintegrate former anti-government rebels and other thousands of prisoners who were released in chaotic fashion last year. Prime minister Abiy Ahmed’s amnesty may now be coming back to haunt him, writes Manek.

China Is leading the next step in fighting malaria in Africa. In Kenya, Chinese researchers are undertaking a mass drug administration, an approach that involves giving every Kenyan an antimalarial pill to stop the spread of the disease among humans. The controversial effort could ease Malaria’s burden on Kenya’s health system and change the perception of Chinese-made medicine in Africa writes Jacob Kushner for The Atlantic.

The South African ultramarathon madness. As South Africans gather to watch the nation’s Comrades Marathon, the largest ultra-distance run in the world, one man read a book. For Christian Science MonitorRyan Lenora Brown writes on how a government lawyer reading his way through the race is collecting books for South Africa’s struggling primary school libraries.

ICYMI

Developing African Leadership. Social innovators and entrepreneurs from Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Côte D’Ivoire, or Zambia can apply to the Kumvana Fellowship for regional retreats, local mentorships, and 5 weeks of intensive leadership training in Toronto. Women are strongly encouraged to apply. (July 7)

Building deep-tech Innovations with Facebook. Nigerian and Ghanian startup teams or university students using AI, internet of things, data science, augmented reality or virtual reality to create innovative solutions can apply to Facebook and CcHUB’s Accelerator mentorship program for six months of training with Facebook engineers. (July 9).

Showcasing African Digital Art. African artists and storytellers interested in collaborating with a UK counterpart to showcase projects at October’s Maputo Fast Forward festival in Mozambique can submit their proposals to The British Council’s ColabNowNow program. (July 24)

KEEP AN EYE ON

Africa 50 shareholders meeting (July 9-10). Government delegates and business leaders will convene in Kigali to discuss private and public infrastructure investments at Africa 50’s Investment forum and general stakeholders meeting.

China-Africa Peace and Security Forum (July 14-20). Delegates from African governments and the African Union will head to Beijing for a joint China-Africa forum themed “Cooperating Hand-in-Hand to Consolidate Security”.

*This brief was produced while listening to Petit Sekou by Bembeya Jazz National (Guinea). [Spotify]

Our best wishes for a productive and ideas-filled week ahead. Please send any news, comments, suggestions, two nights at the Intercontinental Hotel Geneva’s presidential suite and as many West African Ecos as you can to africa@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter at @qzafrica for updates throughout the day.

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