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Remote Working in the African Context

The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated transition to remote work comes with profound positives for employers and employees. One report found that employers are saving as much as $22,000 per full-time remote employee, by shedding office-related costs. For workers in low-income countries—especially those in the rapidly growing professional class in sub-Saharan Africa—the unmooring of skilled jobs from physical locations offers unfettered access to previously unavailable opportunities. But it also accentuates their disadvantages relative to their peers in high-income countries, chiefly around compensation and labor protections. Employers justify lower salaries as “location pay” determined by a lower cost of living. But in Africa, most skilled workers live in large cities that can provide the infrastructure they need to work remotely – namely stable electricity and high-speed internet and mobile broadband. That means the actual cost of living for an urban professional in Lagos or Nairobi is getting closer to their contemporaries doing the same job in cities where multinationals are headquartered. And at the very least, the differences do not justify salaries five to ten times below wealthy country rates.