Improving work conditions in Africa, where occupational accidents are rising 

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Joined: Nov 2016

Africa is slowly becoming a dream hub of technology and innovation, but employee rights must be guaranteed

It’s known that global companies often don’t respect worker’s safety guidelines by offering them the right equipment. Moreover, some don’t consider training necessary in some jobs since they require a limited skill set. Unfortunately, this is a disaster recipe for people being injured gravely at work, whether it’s a construction site or an office. 

The industries that pose the most significant occupational risks include manufacturing, construction, transportation and storage. At the same time, temporary or part-time employees are considerably more exposed to dangers since they might provide their services without a contract or legal framework. 

Standards in worker safety were never correctly adjusted in accordance with the type of job, the employees’ average age and the nature of the workload. However, this was more impactful in some areas than others. For instance, in Europe, the rates of occupational accidents are lower compared to Asia, where 65% of the global work-related mortality occurs. According to the UN Global Compact, Africa is second, with a rate of 11.8%. Europe follows closely, then the Americas and Oceania being the last on the list. 

This article focuses on Africa, where the people with the best potential are exposed to risks and hazards due to corruption. But how can this be changed? 

Workplace accidents happen everywhere 

Although labour standards are similar worldwide, they’re often not prioritised. Welfare facilities, a healthy work environment and a generally safe workplace are required at any job, but that doesn’t ensure employees’ total safety. Even in developed areas, such as the United Kingdom, where the number of fatal work-related injuries decreased considerably in the past years, workers have to rely on protests for better pay and claiming compensation for accidents. 

According to, those who work in manufacturing and human health suffer the greatest number of accidents while at work due to lack of proper equipment or training. Moreover, many others worsened their health since poor working conditions and heavy workloads pressed workers. 

However, working in Africa is different 

While physical accidents are common worldwide, there are specific challenges in Africa relating to poor work environments. For example, there’s a lot of discrimination in workplaces and sites, which hasn’t been solved by the Labour Administration Convention since inspections aren’t properly assessed, making workplaces rather vulnerable and workers easier to exploit. 

The increasing inequality between vulnerable groups and regular workers has deepened, mainly since the financial and economic crises in the world affected Africa. Stereotypes and the lack of standard national equality policies lead to an unprecedented absence of understanding of critical concepts regarding work practices and worker’s rights. 

Therefore, the real issue stands in the social framework in which people conduct their services, which needs a better base of employee rights, starting with solving harassment problems. Although companies provide training for reporting specific issues at work, it’s unclear whether they’re efficient or not. 

Technology can help African workers 

While in other parts of the world automation is feared due to increasing accuracy, in Africa, it could be the tool that helps workers boost their productivity and contribution to the economy. At the same time, the cost of adopting technology would most likely help firms be up to the increasing demand for products and create more jobs. 

Technology can enter the African market and benefit the economy only with the right investments. The base of building the right environment consists of better working policies coming from improved entrepreneurship skills. However, developing workers’ competencies also requires better childhood education and healthcare improvements. 

There’s also the need for digital technologies to open access to markets and ensure firms can leverage their features to help upgrade workers’ skills and maintain a safe work environment. Still, this wouldn’t be complete without a consistent investment in social protection coverage from the government. Employees need better social protection and safety nets because this allows them to continue working and support their lifestyles. 

The future of sub-Saharan Africa is here 

African startups are already showing what they’re capable of reaching the Technology Pioneers list in 2022 through fundraising. However, not all regions are attractions for foreign investors, considering west Africa primarily provides value through deals, followed by east, north and southern Africa. 

These startups contributed significantly to improving African regions by developing financial, IT and communication sectors. Together, these startups are valued at more than $1 billion, meaning they achieved unicorn status. However, the healthcare industry has the slightest interest when it comes to investments. 

The main challenges to Africa’s business potential

Besides better working conditions, it’s essential that Africa improves its business areas because this is how jobs that maintain standards are created. Many of these startups lack capital but are also in need of talent to take their tasks to the next level. 

At the same time, only 27% of startups will be founded by females in 2022, which might increase in the future when equality improves. This factor is significant in harnessing a diverse business ecosystem in which every African has access to work and better lifestyle conditions. Luckily, startup accelerators boost the entrepreneurial talent in Africa through training and constant learning. 

Completing these elements ensures global coverage of the potential of these businesses, allowing corporations to partner with more African startups and small companies as they bring something new to the business area. Regardless, Africa is slowly becoming a dream hub of technology and innovation. Still, this emergence should spread across the continent in order to bring financial resources to places where they’re needed to create more jobs and improve one’s life quality. 

Final considerations 

Africa has great potential to become the most extraordinary continent, but challenges in working conditions hinder it from further development. Business ecosystems are currently facing issues of discrimination, stereotypes and lack of proper training, therefore blocking the improvement of local businesses and communities. However, there’s a lot of talent in Africa, and startups prove their capabilities by ticking the unicorn feature and bringing technology into their countries to make it affordable and valuable to the population. 



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