The African Center for Economic Transformation, with funding from Microsoft Philanthropies, Middle East and Africa, has held the final roundtable workshop under the ‘Right-skilling the Workforce in Africa for Industry 4.0’ project in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The workshop, held on September 13, was one of three that were organised as part of the project, which is being led by the National University of Singapore.
Against the background of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), brought on by recent breakthroughs in information and communication technologies (ICTs) that are unleashing new capabilities and fundamentally changing the nature of work through automation, the project seeks to identify and evaluate the effectiveness of existing initiatives and their relative success or failure in skilling the workforce.
It also aims to track progress, compare approaches, gauge the impact of successes and failures in different approaches and draw lessons for policy formulation while also exploring the extent to which gender issues have been mainstreamed in initiatives spearheaded by government, academia and key industry players, with a focus on four sectors: (i) agriculture; (ii) manufacturing; (ii) services and (iv) tourism.
Thought leaders and industry practitioners from these sectors discussed what challenges and opportunities there were in skilling the African workforce for Industry 4.0 as well as how to effectively leverage the opportunities that Industry 4.0 presents.
Dr Julius Gatune, Senior Policy and Research Advisor at ACET, noted: “Although technology is key, industrial revolutions are driven by energy or power, transportation, communication and production or industry organization”, Dr. Gatune stated. He explained further that “renewable energy sources, hydrogen fuel cells storage and smart grids” would be the energy developments to drive the fourth industrial revolution.
Dr Gatune said while arguments about job losses are often raised in relation to the fourth industrial revolution, “4IR technologies are likely to increase jobs. However, that will require right strategies and being ready” as 4IR technologies are disrupting economic models, creating new industries and business models.
Ms. Trudi van Wyk, Chief Director at the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) of South Africa acknowledged that while the scope of the 4IR is huge and may allow for the creation of entirely new industries, job roles and expertise, it also presents a looming threat of redundancy and potential job losses in certain job categories as current processes are made obsolete by revolutionary technology.
She said the DHET, institutions, entities and organisations within the Post-School Education and Training (PSET) are already actively involved in responding to 4IR in a number of different ways, both nationally, as well as internationally, including through the establishment of the Inter-Branch Committee and the Ministerial Task Team on the 4th Industrial Revolution, among other initiatives.
Data gathered from the three country workshops will be analysed and a report produced that will feed into policy engagement. The report is expected to help African policy makers on putting in place the requisite structures and policies to ensure that their workforce is equipped for the fourth industrial revolution.