Why flexspace and the world’s fastest-growing continent are meant to be
Today, Africa is the fastest-growing continent on earth and, according to the United Nations (UN), “More than half of global population growth between now and 2050 is expected to occur in Africa.” At the same time, the world is migrating from countryside to cityscape, as the UN report goes on to state: “Africa has the highest rate of population growth among major areas.” This population explosion will not come without challenges, as we learn to cope with increasingly limited resources, but there will be many positives too: an enterprising, mobile, young society holds great promise for the future – and for the world of work.
With more working-age people than the rest of the world combined by 2035, sub-Saharan Africa has become the region to watch. The latest World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Competitiveness Report states that South Africa has become more competitive than India – so it’s no wonder that international investors are flocking to bustling commercial centres like Cape Town and Johannesburg in South Africa and Accra in Ghana, with commercial property and real-estate brokers forming an important part of the unfolding scene. Many IWG brands, including Regus, already have business centres in South Africa and Ghana, as the region finds itself at the heart of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – and the growing trend for flexible working that naturally accompanies it.
As global brands and large corporations look to expand into new territories – and South Africa real estate in particular – it’s almost as if flexspace was made for this moment. (Internet-giant Google, which has leased space for 50 employees in Kenya, is just once example of Big Tech’s enthusiasm for chasing opportunities in previously untapped markets.) International companies can establish a presence in a virgin market without making any long-term commitments until they understand the peculiarities of doing business like a local, and also benefit from the ability to scale up or down in keeping with the on-demand nature of the gig economy. Plus, the infrastructure a globally networked flexspace provider can offer is likely to attract the top talent that otherwise might look for job opportunities in pastures new. The four SPACES properties in Cape Town, which offer super-fast Wi-Fi and a design-driven approach to coworking and flexible office space, are just one example of how the business environment has changed.
Klaus Schwab, the WEF’s founder and executive chairman, is unequivocal about the profound changes the Fourth Industrial Revolution will bring. He writes: “As the physical, digital, and biological worlds continue to converge, new technologies and platforms will increasingly enable citizens to engage with governments, voice their opinions, coordinate their efforts, and even circumvent the supervision of public authorities.” But it will also have a huge impact on work: significant investment in wireless technology – think mobile broadband and fibre-optic cable connections – has removed the barriers to entry that once existed, allowing workers to engage in a job wherever they find a signal. So while New York built its reputation as the home of the grand corporate headquarters, the business capitals of the emerging world are likely to take a more flexible approach: why make a long-term (and expensive) investment in infrastructure when it will be seldom used?
Of course, there are positives and negatives to any situation. The airwaves may have enabled a surge in employment, but the newfound wealth and consequent mobility it’s created also has implications on the ground: namely, the congestion caused by traffic. It’s another reason why commuting to a central location for work every day looks like an anomaly from the past. When flexspace options include everything from a place to plug your laptop and a meeting room to rent by the hour, to a suite of rooms with fully-serviced office functionality, there’s simply no need.
The world of work is changing fast – and sub-Saharan Africa is where it’s changing fastest. As big corporates and global brands look for ways to establish a presence in this most enterprising part of the world, flexspace is a proven method of gaining a foothold.
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