Africa should embrace technology for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)
Written by Tendai Nheta
One thing about technology is that people need to be involved, there is no other way Africa can thrive without taking part on innovation and technology. The slow adoption and implementation of innovative platforms across various key sectors of the economy is detrimental in the digital era, African nations needs to adapt or it will struggle to catch up on capital markets and inventions. The widening gap between first and third world countries is a worrying prospect that needs to be confronted with the seriousness that it deserves if at all Africa is ready for change.
Depending on how people view Africa, different perceptions drive a narrative of poverty within communities; this has seen the drive by governments on the African continent to push for digitisation across industries. The technological revolution is radically shaping lives globally, the way tradition taught us is no longer sustainable, technological advancement and Third World countries overtake industry processes, there is a need to catch up to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and fast. The adoption of new ways of working threatens the extinction of some of the traditional jobs, it is inevitable should the jobs still exist that they will carry a low wage.
This very fear of imminent changes establishes a possibility of embarking on a defined trajectory within the education system. According to 2020 LinkedIn Emerging Jobs Report, the biggest carrier opportunities paying in access of $136.000 annual salary are in the area of artificial intelligence. AI experts are being well sort after in the education and research sector and Africa need to open up this industry
The Third Industrial Revolution brought about mobile technology, social media platforms which bridged the information gap. Automation, telecommunications, computing among other innovations broadened the horizon at which we imagined the universe, now that technology has made it possible to see beyond the impossible, Africa no longer has an excuse but to grab this opportunity and chart a journey to be visible and be productive. Wide spread technology would mean that Africa can finally participate in a wider global platform and start contributing more proactively for the economic growth of the continent and beyond.
Mechanising the agricultural sector would mean improved food security, translating to a healthy nation and improved output and ultimately economic growth. The other economic sectors will equally benefit from the new technology, the health sector in particular could benefit from use of AI, unlocking data insights which would improve innovation that could allow for reduction of running cost and improve patient outcomes.
Robotics, will improve efficiency across key economic sectors, the construction sector is beginning to embrace this technology and its proven to be working in other countries, manufacturing and mining sectors are set to benefit immensely through utilising technology in the fourth industrial revolution. The ability to exploit these technologies will indeed be very beneficial to improve the standard of life for people around the world. Fourth Industrial Revolution is a game-changer; the fear for being left behind is real and playing catch-up would not cut it as technology is changing.
This is the time for Africa to begin the journey of digitising all sectors of the economy, with the advent of global warming, all the signs of weather changes are pointing to seasonal shifts whose impact could only be anyone’s guess. Technology will mitigate against devastating impact of global warming through data collation and analysis that is used to predict the magnitude allowing for improved preparedness. Africa ought to have a broader focus, well into decades to try and magnify our territorial spectrum, innovations across Africa and government collaborations could not be emphasised more than it should be now. The move for African countries to come together under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is a commendable move, one that will benefit from digitalisation.
African Continental Free Trade Area has enormous potential to bring over 1,2 billion people together, the expansion of trade and fighting poverty could improve through utilising technology, allowing seamless communication between countries, and increase productivity across all industries on the continent. Fourth Industrial Revolution has exciting technologies that could shape up the way people live, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, artificial technology (AI) and robotics, internet of things (IoT), block chain, high-speed network connectivity in the form of 5G, and 3-D printing and more.
All these are pointing to a very fast-paced lifestyle that could change the dynamics of our immediate environment. Finally, through these technologies, we can reduce cost as we can forecast results with unimaginable precision using ground-breaking software systems. In construction we can build virtually, through use of building information modelling (BIM), virtual reality (VR), companies are able to build the whole development schemes or construction projects virtually, through analysing the data, companies are able to reduce cost, waste resulting into quality output increased productivity and even fewer accidents on site.
Africa is one of the wealthiest continents in the world, endowed with natural resources, discovered and some yet to be explored. These mineral resources have the potential to change the economic landscape of Africa. 4IR has brought affordable technology, tools and information required to be able to plan, communicate and produce results without too much cost attached. Exploration tools, including software, make it possible for us to be able to “keep in touch” now than ever before. Technology has made it possible for most impoverished communities in the poorest countries to be accessible, through drone technology, robotics and information to be shared through mobile technology and fast internet connectivity.
With imminent 5G, the speed at which we currently receive information will change significantly, and we will be able to bring the world closer, allowing the seamless ability to do business across the continent and globally. Technology can bring visibility of marginalised communities in spatially disadvantaged urban, peri-urban areas, rural areas and town and cities, and it has the potential to improve people lives significantly. The architecture of the economy and the spatial make-up of our country already make it difficult for some in these pockets of society to access technological resources, such as reliable internet connectivity.
For Africa to achieve sustainable digitally driven economies, there is a need for the African governments to have buy-in for the technology and drive 4IR agenda more aggressively. For Africa a continent to benefit from digitalisation, the education system should be revised, universities need to offer programmes aligned to the digital era, areas such as cloud computing, data science and software engineering. These skillsets are crucial if Africa is to embark on this digital journey which will help shape the continent through transforming people’s lives and growing our economies.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has been vocal on this issue of digitisation. He recently put together a team to explore research on the implementation of 4IR, citing the direction the world is headed and that it is vital that South Africa’s education system changes and take the digital approach. Where does Zimbabwe stand in the digital world, The Zimbabwean education system needs to evolve with time; the Government should be working with a view that education curriculum will be outdated soon if we do not conform.
All this said, there are a variety of challenges stemming from the Fourth Industrial Revolution to overcome, such as income inequality, cybersecurity, and ethical dilemmas create ripple effects on societies, institutions, and economies. However, if these issues are addressed adequately, they will transform how we live, work, and interact with one another. Understanding these new technologies and their disruption potential is critical for all nations and especially developing countries.