New Research Shows 80 Million Young People to Benefit from the Rise of Digital Commerce in Africa

Press Release

Toronto, Canada – February 27, 2019 – The Mastercard Foundation in partnership with BFA today released Digital Commerce and Youth Employment in Africa, new research that shows 80 million young people will benefit from the rise of digital commerce in Africa by 2030. These findings indicate that the digital commerce sector has the potential of disrupting the future of work on the continent.

Digital commerce, or e-commerce, is an emerging sector across Africa. By 2030, more than 10 percent of its largely informal workforce will be using digital platforms. These workers will participate in digital commerce as consumers and, with a supportive policy environment, may also become a new group of workers called iWorkers. These digitally connected young people who are entering the workforce will generate income in the ‘gig economy’, through direct employment with large platforms such as Amazon and Alibaba, and through small enterprises, eventually leading to more formalized work.

Tricia Williams, Senior Manager, Strategy and Learning at the Mastercard Foundation says, “A substantial number of young people could benefit from the rise of digital commerce in Africa, lifting themselves and families out of poverty. Policymakers have a distinct opportunity to shape the future of work for African youth by designing growth-enabling policies. These policies need to unlock the potential of digital commerce while addressing its risks.”

Digital Commerce and Youth Employment in Africa goes on to say that governments in Africa can immediately adopt three approaches to future-proof themselves and African youth for the various scenarios associated with the undeniable emergence of digital commerce. They include:

  • Gathering better data on digital commerce and employment.
  • Monitoring evolving trends and promoting a wider understanding by policymakers of the issues of digital commerce.
  • Prioritizing the development of digital commerce skills in digital customer relationship management and marketing.

David Porteous, Founder and Chair of BFA, recommends policymakers to “take a test-and-learn approach – targeted experimentation to formulate more comprehensive strategies and policies over time, such as a digital version of the public works program targeting youth or testing the exemption of certain labour and tax laws to encourage an active iWorker policy.” He further adds, “It is inadvisable to do nothing as the next few years provide a window of opportunity for shaping a more productive labour structure.”

For more information on this new research, please visit www.mastercardfdn.org/digitalcommerce


About the Mastercard Foundation

The Mastercard Foundation seeks a world where everyone has the opportunity to learn and prosper. The Foundation’s work is guided by its mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion for people living in poverty. One of the largest foundations in the world, it works almost exclusively in Africa. It was created in 2006 by Mastercard International and operates independently under the governance of its own Board of Directors. The Foundation is based in Toronto, Canada. For more information and to sign up for the Foundation’s newsletter, please visit www.mastercardfdn.org. Follow the Foundation at @MastercardFdn on Twitter.


About BFA

BFA is a global consulting firm specializing in using finance to create solutions for low-income people. Our approach is to seek out, create and implement financial solutions to help people manage challenges, and seize opportunities. We partner with cutting-edge organizations that touch the lives of low-income consumers such as financial institutions, fintech companies, and information providers. In creating solutions, we integrate our deep expertise in customer insights, business strategy, new technology, and growth-enabling policy, and regulation. Founded in 2006, BFA’s clients include financial institutions, technology companies, donors, investors and policymakers. BFA has offices in Boston, Medellín, Nairobi, New Delhi, and New York. For more information, please visit: www.bfaglobal.com and follow @BFAGlobal on Twitter.


Jane Del Ser
Deputy Director, Insights and Influence
+34 689 62 54 48


Jamie Farshchi
Manager, Editorial Communications
Mastercard Foundation
+1 416 214 1123

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