The Protocol on E-Commerce represents a critical component for the continent and the future of work. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is already altering the world of work as we know it. Yet, Africa lacks the legal framework or a conducive environment for digital activities and trade. Connectivity in rural and remote areas is a challenge.
The existing Regional Economic Communities (RECs) also lack any protocols on E-commerce. The inclusion of the Protocol on E-commerce in the AfCFTA is ground-breaking and provides an opportunity for a just technological transition.
Across all sectors of any economy, technological innovation is changing the way we work. Artificial intelligence, robotics and automation are examples of the technology types that can replace humans and increase productivity. Technology replacing jobs will become progressively more present across all sectors, and trade unions have experienced job losses in various sectors.
While technology could pose an immense threat, it also creates an opportunity within the world of work. The Fourth Industrial Revolution could “create quality work with reduced working time and improved occupational health and safety”.
The Trade Union Response
What do we need to look out for, deliberate and demand?
Within the Protocol of E-commerce and the Fourth Industrial Revolution debate, trade unions should demand a just technological transition, thus:
- Social dialogue in every step will ensure no worker or community are left behind
- Workers must have decent protected jobs with access to training and re-skilling opportunities
- Social protection will be available to all citizens while communities will operate in diversified and viable economies.
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