Daniel Madibana is the Convener of ANCYL Regional Task Team in Waterberg Region in Limpopo Province and writes in his personal capacity. He holds a BSC Biochemistry Degree and is studying towards a Post Graduate Diploma in Business Administration with the Gordon Institute of Business Science.
In today’s world, which will be dominated by internet of things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence, 3D printing, robotics and crypto-currencies, for South African black youth must embrace the 4th industrial revolution through innovation and creativity to truly advance Radical Economic Transformation (RET).
Youth from different persuasion should then channel their energy and attention on advocating for skills that will be required in the current epoch we are entering. We should further critically question the education system we have and ask difficult questions such as: what are the skills-set required in the 4th Industrial Revolution? What type of skills do we have now that will be redundant in the long run? Is the curriculum which is taught in both basic and higher education future-ready? What is the value of knowledge when Google and You-tube are on our finger tips? Young people, particularly from the ruling ANC should honestly reflect on the questions raised and come with concrete strategy and practical programme to prepare for this change.
To highlight the fact that digitalisation is already disruptive, one can look on how Uber is disrupting the taxi industry. Although the taxi industry won the battle against Uber so far, the truth of the matter is that they will eventually lose the War because of inevitability of change. Even the greatest philosopher of all times, Karl Max alluded that “there is nothing that does not change except change itself and there is nothing that does not move except movement itself ”.
In the next 20 years, technology would disrupt the current socio-economic structure so overwhelmingly. All the industries are susceptible to this disruption, including the financial and mining sectors which enjoyed comfort for many decades. Therefore, the youth from different persuasion should take a lead in embracing the workforce of the future and form strategic alliances with government, private sector, Development Finance Institutions (DFI), parastatals and the National Youth Development Agency to drive skills revolution that is future-ready.
At the core of newly launched presidential initiative called Youth Employment Service (YES), young people should ensure that skills related to the digital technology and other components of the 4th industrial revolution are prioritized. The 2017 World Economic Forum (WEF) report on “The future of jobs and skill in Africa” suggest that 41% of all work activities in South Africa are susceptible to automation.
This job disruption can be linked to the fact that business will migrate to automation for them to increase economies of scale and being more profitable. However, this might present an opportunity of creating more jobs in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT), data analyses, cyber security expert, green jobs and engineering field. The scary part is that the 2017 WEF report also indicates that 39% core skills required will be wholly different in 2020 due to intense use of technology. Some of the jobs to be affected are bank tellers as research indicates that the ATM’s of tomorrow will be able to do 90% of what the human being can do. Other jobs that will be hit by automation are financial analysts, accountants, construction and manufacturing workers.
On basic education, the 54th National conference of the ruling party resolved that steps should be taken to implement operation Phakisa to introduce ICT in schools. As young people we must ensure that such resolution is implemented with speed and priority be placed on rural and township schools. The ICT sector is a strategic enabler in the 4th industrial revolution and investment on its tools is very imperative.
The investment in ICT sector should deliberately focus on developing black owned SMME’s as this sector is dominated by white companies. The ANC further resolved to invest 1.5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on Research and Development by 2019. Young people should not just advocate for implementation of such resolution but to also ensure that black African youths remain key beneficiaries. One of the constraints for black young people to access and leverage on technology, is the exorbitant cost of communication in our country. The conference further resolved to support the campaign for data to fall as it is stifling economic inclusion. It thus remains the role of us as young people to propose practical steps to government for it to address this high cost of communication.
Creating conducive environment for innovation and creativity for young people will go a long way in addressing the inefficiencies regarding service delivery. We should be proud to produce young people who will be able to develop APPS that will assist to address the needs of society regarding government services. This will only happen if the education system produces young people with skills in complex problems solving and critical thinkers. We do not just want knowledgeable youth but those who will be able to apply their knowledge and contribute to socio-economic growth of our society. The 4th industrial revolution is here, ours is to embrace, adopt and leverage on new opportunities to advance the interest of young people in general and blacks in particular.