“The role of humans as the most important factor of production is bound to diminish in the same way that the role of horses in agricultural production was first diminished and then eliminated by the introduction of tractors.” – Wassily Leontief, Nobel Prize winner for economics 1973
The migration of human labour to a technological and robotic workforce is inevitable, even in Africa. Goods produced locally with expensive labour will cost much more than imported alternatives produced with robots internationally. Trade deficits will increase and jobs will be lost due to reduced demand.
As robotic technology advances it has, in many instances, already replaced jobs that have traditionally been performed by people, which has unfortunately resulted in negative perceptions being associated with developments in this field.
The fear of job losses due to automation is not a new one and has been around from the early 1700s when the first industrial revolution took place.
However, while the fear of job losses is a valid concern, particularly in developing countries with high unemployment rates, the potential negative impact can be managed if countries can adapt to create these technologies locally.
In doing so, countries will be able to move away from labour intensive production methods enabling them to become more competitive in global markets.
As pointed out in a report released by the National Academy of Sciences in the US:
Innovation = Lower Prices = Higher Output = More Sales = More Jobs.
When factories and industry become automated, it also becomes less compelling for business owners to relocate production facilities to cheaper labour markets such as China, thereby stimulating the growth of their local economies instead of other countries’ economies.
What we who work in robotics must do is, therefore, to create replacement jobs by stimulating the development of technology locally as we migrate to a more autonomous world.