The world of work is subject to digital transformation and has witnessed a rapid rise of the digital platform economy over the last decade. Despite a growing body of research on this topic, the specific implications of this transformation for refugees and other marginalized populations remains poorly understood. The ILO’s Youth Employment Accelerator and the PROSPECTS partnership commissioned the present research to set a basis for a series of upcoming interventions in the digital economy, and more specifically in relation to digital labour and e-commerce platforms within PROSPECTS target countries in Africa. With a focus on Kenya, Uganda and Egypt, this report aims to contribute to a better understanding of the main challenges and opportunities that digital labour and e-commerce platforms in Africa pose for supporting a wider transition to decent work, with a concentration on refugees, displaced persons and their host communities. It builds on important recent ILO publications on this topic, including the 2021 World Employment and Social Outlook (WESO) on the digital platform economy and the report Digital Refugee Livelihoods and Decent Work: Towards Inclusion in a Fairer Digital Economy.
The online marketplace is often perceived to be easily accessible at a time when local employment alternatives outside urban centres are frequently scarce. The case of refugees offers a critical view on sometimes overly optimistic ideas about the digital platform economy as inclusive, empowering and transformative. Indeed, the current state of refugees and youth in the digital platform economy raises some serious concern about the lack of inclusion and the absence of adequate social protection, rights at work and decent working conditions.