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Chairman Reverend Frank Chikane on the Fourth Industrial Revolution

A key part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is the opportunity it presents through the internet platform for inclusive growth in the African continent. Inclusive growth is a concept that advances equitable opportunities for economic participants during economic growth with benefits inclined by every section of society.

The vast and growing potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is yet to be fully grasped. The ICT sector, industry and governments have a responsibility to unlock its potential for citizen service delivery, customer experience and innovative solutions, for a better life for all.

Q & A with Reverend Frank Chikane

How do you think government and industry can begin to unlock this potential?

The Future of Jobs and skills in Africa report suggests that, to prepare for the future of work, the region (Africa) must expand its high-skilled talent pool by developing future-ready curricula, with a large portion of that focusing on STEM education – interdisciplinary approach to learning where rigorous academic concepts are coupled with real-world.

What role does the Department of Basic Education and the Department of Science and Technology and Department of Telecommunications & Postal Services, need to play in preparing learners and citizens to be equipped to take advantage of opportunities within the Fourth industrial revolution? And does South Africa have the right policies, legislations and regulations in place to support the skills and infrastructure needed?

Leadership and governance both in the public and private sector will play a critical role in South Africa’s readiness for the fourth industrial revolution. The Departments of Education and Science and Technology and private sector initiatives in research and development are critical in this regard. New policy perspectives, laws and regulations will need to be developed to create conditions conducive for this development. Recent corruption, maladministration and collusion in both sectors has made South Africa vulnerable for investment and contributed to low economic growth. This must change radically.

What type of leadership does the country need to propel our economy in an upward trajectory?    

One of the National Development Plan’s (NDP) objectives to be reached by 2030 is, “strong leadership throughout society that work together to solve our problems.”  I would add that the leadership will have to be visionary, innovative, and perceptive and think out of the box. Traditional leadership models will miss the opportunities occasioned by the fourth industrial revolution. Secondly, it is critical that we use public-private partnerships as they are a powerful lever for development in order to take advantage of the opportunities occasioned by this revolution.

What do you think are some of the limitations and opportunities for public-private partnerships in South African?

The greatest change South Africa faces is the divide between those in the public sector, who happen to be mainly black and historically disadvantaged, and those in the private sector who happen to be in the main white. No amount of goodwill from those who are in Government has changed the attitudes of those who control the heights of the economy. If we fail to break this wall and collaborate in taking advantage of the fourth industrial revolution we will find it very difficult to be at the cutting edge of the new economy.

The ANC has always maintained pro-poor policies to address poverty, inequality and unemployment which are also aligned to the NDP. Do you think the current ANC policies have insight and foresight of the Fourth Industrial Revolution?   

The current policies are steeped in the current economic paradigm which will be overtaken by new industries rendering what we are fighting about obsolete. The younger generation must be empowered to change the economic paradigm and discourse by moving into the new space of new industries within the context of the fourth industrial revolution. We must move beyond those who are fighting to keep and control the current economy by creating the new that is occasioned by the fourth industrial revolution.

What are the consequences of failure to take advantage of the fourth industrial revolution as the African continent?

I want to make it clear that there is no room for failure as failure will mean that Africa gets enslaved and colonised again as it is beginning to happen through the ports of Libya and other countries in the north of the African continent. Young Africans are being enticed to get on trips to better pastures which end up with them being bought as slaves and sold to sharks in Europe and the USA where they are treated as slaves. We need to return to the African renaissance vision by:

  • ending the senseless wars that are raging on the African continent, making strategic thinking and development impossible;
  • establishing participatory governments that create space for the younger generation to employ their creative potential to participate at the cutting urge of the fourth industrial revolution; and
  • reposition our educational systems to enable the younger generation to be innovative to find solutions confronting humanity today and into the future.

What do you think we should do to ensure that South Africa and the African continent are leaders in the emerging fourth industrial revolution?

We must bring together younger business people, economists, those who are in finance, banking, investment space, asset management, information technology, artificial intelligence, and so forth, to think together and develop strategies to enter this world of the fourth industrial revolution to find sustainable solutions to our economic challenges.  


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