Book launch! The Digital Continent: Placing Africa in Planetary Networks of Work
Published on 3 Feb 2022
Written by Mohammad Amir Anwar and Mark Graham
Professor Mark Graham and Dr Mohammad Amir Anwar, publish their new book, “The Digital Continent: Placing Africa in Planetary Networks of Work”, that examines the job quality implications of digital work for the lives of African workers.
As recently as the early 2010s, there were more internet users in countries like France or Germany than in all of Africa put together. But much changed in that decade, and 2018 marked the first year in human history in which a majority of the world’s population is now connected to the internet.
This mass connectivity means that we have an internet that no longer connects only the world’s wealthy. Workers from Lagos to Johannesburg to Nairobi, and everywhere in between, can now apply for and carry out jobs coming from clients who themselves can be located anywhere in the world. Digital outsourcing firms can now also set up operations in the most unlikely of places in order to tap into hitherto disconnected labour forces.
Professor Mark Graham, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, said “I am delighted to see ‘The Digital Continent: Placing Africa in Planetary Networks of Work’ now published. Africa used to be the world’s least connected continent, but with the rapid spread of digital connectivity millions of Africans now can work for clients and companies all around the world. This book explores the types of work that flow to Africa, and asks how that work is experienced by African workers”.
Dr Mohammad Amir Anwar, said. “I am really pleased that the book is now published. It brings unique insights into the emerging digital economy in Africa and the planetary networks of work in which African workers are embedded. The book will appeal to diverse readers from scholars, policymakers, development practitioners, civil society members, students, and workers. I hope they find it useful to think about creating better work futures.”
With CEOs in the Global North proclaiming that location is a concern of the past, and governments and civil society in Africa promising to create millions of jobs on the continent, The Digital Continent investigates what this new world of digital work means to the lives of African workers.
Anwar and Graham draw on a five-year-long field study in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, and Uganda, and over 200 interviews conducted with participants including gig workers, call and contact centre workers, small self-employed freelancers, business owners, government officials, labour union officials, and industry experts. Focusing on both platform-based remote work and call and contact centre work, the book examines the job quality implications of digital work for the lives and livelihoods of African workers.
The Digital Continent: Placing Africa in Planetary Networks of Work is published by Oxford University Press (OUP) and is available to download via Open Access and on the OUP online shop.
Fairwork highlights best and worst labour practices in the platform economy. Our goal is to show that better, and fairer, jobs are possible in the platform economy and low pay, precarity, and poor working conditions.
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