The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) in Africa
The fourth industrial revolution in Africa, or Africa 4IR, is an umbrella term that ushers in a new era of technological productivity and innovation, promising to change the workplace climate and how companies communicate with employees and their clients.
It will be a time of significant change for many decision-makers, swapping traditional skills and technologies for breakthrough alternatives. Additionally, employers will need to prioritize a combination of soft and hard skills to navigate the African 4IR. Africa is brimming with potential in several ways to optimize the latest advancements in the fourth revolution. However, to achieve substantial progress, private organizations and governmental institutes must collaborate through recognizing the technologies and skills in demand and empowering the workforce with the capabilities to utilize them.
Understanding the Fourth Industrial RenovationThe fourth industrial revolution, at its core, is a worldwide phenomenon that revolves around digital connectivity and other emerging technologies. These revolutionary solutions include artificial intelligence (A.I.), machine learning (ML), the Internet of Things (IoT), and quantum computing. Collectively, these emerging trends enable companies to scale operations with precision and cost-effectiveness while optimizing communications and productivity. Entities that lack these solutions may find themselves at a severe disadvantage as competitors become increasingly versatile and efficient. Therefore, African 4IR requires national companies to face and adapt to the latest industry changes to compete on the world stage.
Rethinking People Power
People have always been at the heart of change and progression. The African 4IR will be no different. Employers need to rethink the hiring process while factoring in emerging technologies. Organizational roles will change according to the latest tech trends, resulting in potential job loss and unemployment. As a result, workers may begin to develop a resistance against emerging technologies, misconstruing them as career threats. However, the intransigent process will prove detrimental to the progress of the continent and place communities at a disadvantage. Therefore, governmental officials and employers need to reconsider education as a whole and potentially reconfigure learning pathways to suit the changing work climate
Embracing Skills Training
African decision-makers need to evaluate current education pathways while taking 4IR into consideration. In many parts of the world, a standard academic education might comprise theoretical/general knowledge that lacks real-world application. However, 4IR might result in an influx of hard skill requirements across various industries. As a result, many businesses and organizations may face a shortage of skilled laborers and technicians in fulfilling tech demands. African decision-makers can circumvent the issue through a series of implementations that include:
Reskilling - There will be many new job opportunities with 4IR in Africa, and workers will need the relevant skill sets to fill those roles. Employers should conduct thorough research on industry trends and provide relevant training to prepare current workers for the anticipated challenges.
Upskilling - Some professional roles will require additional skills to keep up with the technological advancements of the African 4IR. For example, accountants may need specific IoT and cybersecurity training to ensure best practices across multiple devices.
Prioritizing Apprenticeships and Vocational Training - Hires with traditional academic degrees may lack the specific skills to thrive in the 4IR landscape. Employers can improve their chances of hiring the most relevant candidates by sponsoring apprenticeships and vocational training programs. Additionally, governmental bodies may offer subsidies and grants to promote skilled trade as a practical career solution.
Combining Soft and Hard Skills - Although employers and decision-makers need workers equipped with hard skills (i.e., 3D printing software expertise), soft skills will remain equally valuable. For example, the African workforce should have apt communication skills to maintain proficient teamwork from remote locations. While industry-specific skills may see an increasing focus in upcoming years, STEM education will remain necessary in diversifying economies - by inculcating critical thinking, creativity, and innovation.
Nurturing Growth Mindsets
Proactive training and educational initiatives will help employers and government officials groom the workforce to become more responsive toward 4IR technologies. Through transparency and gradual normalization, workers will learn to work alongside advanced technology rather than identifying them as career threats. African employers may consider providing training opportunities as part of employment perks. These may include on-the-job training and regular external workshops, where workers can gradually familiarize themselves with 4IR processes through practical application.
Enhancing Data Management
Data, specifically big data, serves a vital role in the fourth industrial revolution. Successful modern companies and organizations rely on a steady stream of accurate data to make effective decisions. African 4IR requires continental companies and institutes to assess and enhance their data infrastructures. These may include the evaluation of cloud system securities and providing the most seamless communication across multiple platforms and devices. IT security leaders need to authenticate data channels to minimize fraudulent activity while safeguarding the most precious data. Data will continue to expand rapidly with digital technology, and African businesses/organizations need to prepare for the extensive bandwidth. African decision-makers need to consider the broader picture and establish reliable data centers in the region. Policymakers need to calculate landmass requirements and national energy consumption to formulate the best continental solution. South Africa remains the continent’s data center leader, and decision-makers may derive ideas from the nation’s model to power the incoming energy demands of 4IR. Additionally, there is a need for African businesses and organizations to focus efforts on data accountability. Africa’s average data price has dipped by a third of its value since adopting the UN target in 2018. Decision-makers must address these issues with transparent pricing and follow-up plans for the long term.
Improving Personalized Messaging
Accurate data paves the way for efficient personalization - a phenomenon that proves effective worldwide. Through personalized data-driven technology, African business owners and organizational leaders will have the tools to engage their target crowd with the most relevant content. Specifically, business owners may provide an authentic African narrative in their audience outreach initiatives. These measures will help produce a far-reaching campaign that keeps African communities inspired through relatable news, music, and videos. 4IR challenges the norms of standard/generic content, and these personalized campaigns will tap on the trend to raise confidence in the modern African workforce. African leaders may unite successful personalization techniques through national frameworks for easier management and distribution. Subsequently, with sufficient traction, African businesses and organizations can present these personalized narratives to the rest of the world. The process can help attract broader attention and collaborative opportunities that improve the continental economy.
Prioritizing the Sustainability Challenge
Fourth industrial revolution Africa will carry a set of environmental concerns alongside its benefits. Emerging technologies, such as cryptocurrency and related blockchain practices, may result in heavy power consumption. African legislators and IT leaders need to prepare a sustainable plan with practical compliance and regulations in response to these potential environmental risks. In another aspect of sustainability, African decision-makers need to consider the nurturing of home-grown businesses. Entrepreneurship has become increasingly feasible with digital connectedness and 4IR conveniences. From eCommerce retail to starting the next unicorn, government officials may consider setting up more grants to facilitate the process and supporting businesses.
Navigating Fourth Industrial Revolution Africa will be a challenge; a rapid technological shift calls for improved innovation and an opportunity to replace outmoded practices and tools. On the upside, the pandemic has driven remote solutions and communications that enable Africa to open its doors to new global partnerships and collaborations. Ultimately, the question lies behind sustainability. Now is the time for African leaders to rally and engage in a bird’s eye view of the situation. 4IR enables African nations to identify the top-performing nations in the continent and share their valuable insights with newfound ease. By pooling national data, Africa can unite its 54 countries to present a cultural and technological powerhouse that will take the fourth industrial revolution to the next level.