African countries urged to take advantage of 4th industrial revolution

Mapping Africa

The 28th World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa went into its second day on Thursday, with calls on African countries to take advantage of the 4th industrial revolution.

Speaking on behalf of President Cyril Ramaphosa at the plenary session, South African Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said that only by taking advantage of the opportunities presented by technological change, can African countries enhance their competitiveness in the global landscape.

The forum is taking place under the theme “Shaping Inclusive Growth and Shared Futures in the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” with the agenda covering four key areas: innovation, sustainable development, digitalization, and governance.

It is critical for African countries to “to adapt and to evolve,” Mboweni said.

“We need to prepare our young people for jobs that haven’t yet been created. We need to adopt incentive programs for industries that may experience significant structural disruption in just a few years’ time,” he said.

Work forces in just about every industry will be impacted by automation, possibly resulting in downsizing and redundancies, he warned.

According to McKinsey, up to 375 million workers globally may have to change their occupational category and acquire new skills by 2030.

Employers will need to make substantial financial commitments to ongoing upskilling and reskilling in response to labor market needs, Mboweni said.

“We need to stimulate entrepreneurial activity because many of the big conglomerates that are the lifeblood of the economies of today will be displaced by leaner and more adaptable small and medium-sized businesses,” he said.

In order to move forward technologically, action taken must be collaborative, multi-sectoral and inclusive, said Mboweni.

South Africa has established a Presidential Commission on the 4th Industrial Revolution to identify strategies and action plans that will position the country as a competitive global player in this new space, he said.

“Africa can and must take advantage of technological advances to industrialize, to pursue inclusive growth and to attract investment,” Mboweni said. “New technologies can also be put to use to improve service delivery.”

“We must be open to new ways of thinking. We must be prepared to take risks, or risk being left behind,” he said. “We must always take the circumstances and varying levels of development of the many countries in Africa into account.”

About 1,000 delegates representing governments, businesses, academics and civil societies from around the world were taking part in the forum designed to shape regional and industry agendas for years ahead. Enditem

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