Your Future Career is African

The world is changing and the future is not Western: The change begins just around the corner.

By: Nnamdi Oranye

If you want to future-proof your career, you’ve got to know what the future is going to look like. And the fascinating thing here is this: the future will not be Western. Nor will it even be Eastern.

I’m sure you know the story of how Kodak missed the boat with digital cameras - they invented them but were scared of how it might affect their business model, so they shut it down. Have you thought about what it would be like to have worked for a company that is now used as a case study for how not to move forward? What do its past employees put on their C.V.? What do they put on their LinkedIn profiles? What do those who worked at Kodak for ten years say in interviews?

Xerox, Blockbuster, even MySpace. These are examples of hugely successful, innovative companies that could not continue to innovate and fell hard. They stopped seeing the future. Some of them were literally holding it in their hands, but a lack of insightful, future-looking leadership led to their downfall. Here are three words for you today: don’t do that.

Why the future is not Western or Eastern

All the latest research and statistics show that by 2035, Africa will have the largest workforce. That’s only 15 years away now! But will these Africans be dispersed all over the world, looking for opportunities and markets in the current big cities of the world? Probably not. African cities are projected to grow larger - much larger - than the biggest cities of today. And therein lies plenty of opportunities.

In 2017, projections of population growth have blown everyone’s expectations out of the water. The world is expected to grow to 8.6 billion people in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050, and 11.2 billion by 2100, after which they expect it to stabilise. By 2070, experts predict that the bulk of the population growth will be in Africa. Of the 2.4 billion people predicted to be added to our world population between now and 2050, 1.3 billion of those will be in Africa. Asia will see 0.9 billion and the rest of the world (that includes a lot of places!) will only see 0.2 billion added.

These aren’t some far-flung future statistics that will only apply to our children’s children. This is happening in my lifetime and probably yours too. We will see the world completely change from a Western-centric world to an African-centric one in our own lifetimes.

The world’s upcoming mega-cities

With a population this big, most of us probably can’t even fathom how big the cities of the world will actually become. It’s predicted that 23 percent of the world will live in cities by 2100 - and 35 percent of the world’s megacities will be in Africa. By 2075, Kinshasa will be the world’s biggest city, with a population far surpassing Tokyo. When we reach 2100, Kinshasa will drop to second and Lagos will become the world’s largest city, an estimated population of 88.3 billion people! Seven of the world’s largest cities by then will be in Nigeria. And get this: not a single South African city makes the top 100.

Even more surprising: Antananarivo (Madagascar) will be the 39th largest city in the world! That’s a city sitting on an island that will be far, far bigger than Johannesburg! And Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkino Faso, will be the 38th largest city in the world. Who has Ouagadougou on their road map?

So what do you have on your road map?

With these fascinating statistics on your mind, how are you building your career and business? Because all this isn’t far away. Kinshasa is well on its way - six years away - to having 16.76 million people, becoming the 11th largest city in the world, just five spots under New York. It then will begin to overtake New York and London - neither of which will see its kind of growth. Are you looking and dreaming about this market?

It’s fair to say that realistically, the future lies in Africa - and if you invest in it, build it, look for your markets in it, and create African innovations for African people, you will be future-proofing your career. It’s time to set our sights not on some distant shore with a history we don’t know and a culture we have to try and integrate into, but to our very own shores. Anybody who wants to build a sustainable business should think now of heading to places like Madagascar, Nigeria, and even Burkino Faso. Things are changing quickly and you need to be on the cusp of it!

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