This is an extract of a speech delivered by Nkemjika okeke , co founder of Remok Consult Ltd
21ST CENTURY LABOUR : MACHINES OR MANPOWER?
Good evening everyone , my name is Nkemjika Okeke . an accountant, business consultant and a co founder of the Business Growth Initiative .
This topic has been a subject of interest and ( tracing back to history) , the bane of gossips after the industrialization era or the industrial revolution of the mid- 18th to early 19thcentury . preceding this period , the use of human labour to carry out task was almost like the default settings of a mobile phone! .
In world Business, Man was faced with the utilization of his skill, strength and physical exertion for any form of activity to occur . it was practically essential that man himself would be indispensable in the processes and cycle of business transaction : management, marketing ,accounting , distribution was purely mechanical . This had aided multiplicity of duties and formed the foundation for the creation of jobs and therefore individual who had the right composition of technical skill and physical exertion could be described as a worker in the 19th and 20th centuries .
Fastforward to the 21st century: the need for ease, convenience and cosnservation of business resources has led man to design machines that could ultimately replace the manual labour of any sort given the rate at which modifications are being made.
You can imagine having a machine that can produce, market and sell your product while you sit and home and control it ! it even collects money accurately and remits to you without any form of embezzlement !
The 21st century machines have certainly been very time and cost effective and has been extremely beneficial to its users ..but lets look at the other end of the spectrum …Manual labour
Fair enough , scientists have claimed that human technical intelligence will still be necessary in handling these machines but it certainly means a reduction in manual labour …as a matter of fact , manual labour might become extinct by 2022!.
Companies are slowly (some quickly) replacing various jobs with machines and this would clearly increase the level of unemployment.( I need not tell you the relationship between unemployment and economic downfall ). Sad to note , the world’s economy is one that has its nations struggling to contend with inflation on one hand and unemployment on the other hand (I would be discussing the relationship between both in subsequent episodes) and it remains to be seen where this places underdeveloped countries like Nigeria in the spectrum .
African countries might be the hardest hit with this new trend . Asian countries like japan and china are based on technology and this has driven their economies towards ‘super power’ status . The same cannot be said of African countries who have been apparently lagging behind in terms of technological advances and are still more accustomed to using manual labour in many activities .
In opinions sampled among African and even Nigerian firms and small scale enterprises, it is evident that though technology has been very helpful in the processes of providing goods and services . it has nonetheless been played down consumers of products who are finding it difficult utilizing cutting edge technology to procure services.
Companies like jumia who provide retail services through online services have been able to meet up with the tech saavy urban population ..but how do you convince an old man in the village to buy his cloth from jumia or konga ? The answer remains controversial . Even in terms of foodstuffs, consumers have been warned to avoid various processed foods due to their health hazards and it, for a moment ,seems like people would prefer hand made food items to those produced through technological equipments.
Africa is still learning to utilize machines in its quest for 21st century dominance but is it really a bargain at the risk of unemployment ….we ask…is it machines or labour for the African continent ? should Africa utilize technology and machines in providing goods and services or do we utilize the manual processes that are familiar with our environment?
I would stop here now to listen to your views on the matter and contributions .feel free to ask questions on the topic and other matters of business