Less than 2 years ago your employer wanted you to be at a certain place within the company office working for a determined amount of time. The '9-5' not only described the hours you'd have to work, but in most cases also ment you knew exactly where you'd be working.
Some small modern start-up companies had already embraced the idea of working with a fully remote team. Businesses set up by owners who wanted to 'live by the beach' in cheaper countries had no issues with hiring people who were chasing the same lifestyle.
But large and established companies with semi- or fully remote working employees? Not an option, at least until Covid-19 hit. Suddenly it became the only way to keep knowledge workers out of the office and on the job at the same time. Things evolved quickly from there.
In the last 18 months remote work and its implications have been widely discussed. Some of the largest and most popular companies in the world giving up their expensive SF offices made headlines everywhere, and made way for others to make the same announcement.
Facebook came out with a statement that said people working remotely for the company and living in cheaper areas of the US outside of Silcion Valley would have to agree with a lower wage. The response to this was so heavy that the company later stated it would not move on with this decision, and allow people to work from anywhere they wanted and still receive the same salary.
The 'remote work revolution' opens up so many opportunities for developing countries, which makes this one of the most exciting (global) changes I've encountered in the last few years. Why? Here's what this revolution can mean for our country in one sentence:
“Cape Verde's true economic potential does not have to be limited to what happens within our borders any longer.”
I've borrowed the quote above from 'E' Aboyeji, the co-founder of Andela and VC firm Future Africa. 'E' is someone who knows about remote work and the opportuntities for the continent, because the creation of Andela was (partially) fueled by the desire to train African developers and then offer them jobs working for American or European companies.
“Permanently divorcing physical location from economic opportunity gives us a real shot at radically expanding the number of good jobs in the world while also dramatically improving quality of life for millions, or billions, of people.” – Marc Andreesen (Technology saves the world)
Remote work opens the borders of the country the same way that tourism did. While tourism opened new markets by attracting large groups of people that are serviced within the country, technology allows (young) Cape Verdean talent to 'travel' across the border. For the first time in history, groups of Cape Verdean people, struggling to hold down jobs in an extremely tight job market, can benefit from a borderless future.
This borderless future will give local talent the opportunity to compete for jobs available globally. Not only will this change our job market, but I can also see this having a future impact on the differences between several islands when it comes to their progress. Our two largest cities, Praia and Mindelo continue to attract people from other parts of the country, creating even larger issues for the underdeveloped areas where young people don't see a future.
For Cape Verde to position itself as a country that can take advantage of the opportunities of global hiring and working, we need to focus on a few areas where things need to improve:
In 2016 about 266.000 of us could access the internet from home (by computer or phone) here in Cabo Verde. I expect that this number is up to around 350.000 today. In and around the cities there are thousands of people online using 4G connections. The challenge here is the access in remote areas of the country, especially on smaller and less populated islands.
I'm watching what Starlink is currently doing with special attention because it could either accelerate local infrastructure in our country, or become a serious option for the remote areas on different islands. Better infrastructure would open up the modern opportunities for everyone here and not just people living in urban areas.
Tools & Language
For people to have access to remote jobs we'll need to invest in laptops and computers. As a more consumer focused society, many of our people have internet access on a mobile phone, but few have access to a (private) computer or laptop. People who have little experience using these will also require extra training on how to use specific programs and tools.
The English language will continue to be required, and can even be considered more important than before. Language schools in different cities and private online teachers will be very important partners in helping people learn quicky and sufficiently in order to compete for remote roles.
Of course the ideal here would be to have thousands of young Cabo Verdeans competing for well paying tech jobs around the globe. But I think we should also look at the remote VA job market as a super interesting opportunity. This will require investing in these skills so that people are able to perform administrative tasks such as managing calendars and take care of bookings and reservations.
Technology and a shift in how we work has provided countries such as Cabo Verde with a huge opportunity. Right now, it seems as no one here understands what this opportunity can mean for the future. Thousands of people who now find themselves in search of a job in a tight, low paying market will soon be able to work in a way unimaginable a few years ago.
The beauty of this development is that it also allows many remote workers to spend time in Cabo Verde while on the job. The government has shown interest in providing conditions for digital nomads as a way to attract them to the country.
When these efforts start to grab the attention of more remote workers, the creation of remote working hubs would be a way to bring both groups together. These remote work hubs could function as knowledge centers (among others), where an interesting exchange (coaching & training) could take place between the more and less experienced remote worker.
“The business case for remote isn't about cost savings, it's about access to talent.” - Jack Altman
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