HOW SOUTH AFRICA CAN LEVERAGE ON THE FOURTH INDUSTRIAL
Author: Mahlomola Stevens Maleka
The dramatic change of speed and scale brought by the Fourth Industrial Revolution
(4IR) has put pressure on the South African Government, Society, and businesses.
Pressure can create a positive impact and outcomes toward a better society. The
time is now that South Africans can take the opportunity and leverage on the new
growth that is presented by tying together the opportunity to enter into the next level
of its development and show better leadership in an evolving Africa and the world.
Omnipresent, self-driving cars, mobile supercomputing, intelligent robots, neuro-
technological brain enhancements and Genetic editing. This presents the evidence
of dramatic change that is all around us and it is happening at a fast pace and
exponential speed. South Africa should start seeing their greatest assets as its
people, and adopt technological changes in two main critical key areas of
autonomous vehicles and data sharing.
South Africa’s investment in this sector should be able to secure dividends for years
to come if there is continued progress. Autonomous vehicles will assist in addressing
one of the major problems SA is facing such as car accidents, as there is a potential
to improve road safety, reducing traffic congestion, altering the design of the cities
and reduction in pollution levels. For society, they can increase cost saving, reduce
waiting times, and improve productivity, more especially when the vehicles are
shared with others.
The expected shift towards this 4IR related future, an infinite amount of data – the
main drive that propels the 4IR is required. Data increases in value; as the more it is
shared from its uses in Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications, gene sequencing to
robotics and improving agricultural yields. The crucial need to guard privacy,
expanded data access could accelerate the process of new industries. Only if South
Africa respond now and quickly, it may position itself as the forefront runner of this
data sharing industry.
The fourth industrial revolution is a fundamental shift in the way that technology,
communications, data, and analytics affect society and the economy. Therefore, the
disruptive shift of the 4IR is inevitably redesigning the public and private systems. Of
importance to this is the collaboration among business and government leaders to
jointly identify the best strategies to accelerate the adoption of new technologies like
autonomous mobility and data sharing in a safe, inclusive and eco-friendly manner.
South African Government has started the process of appreciating the need for
addressing the future by appointing the Presidential Commission on 4IR in the
Department of Communications and Digital Technologies. South Africa needs to
invest in research and investment in new skills that will assist in strengthening and
developing future leaders. The partnership, which includes the private, and public
sector, including that of the World Economic Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial
Revolution network provides opportunities to public and private sectors together in
addressing key governance issues about responding to key technological changes in
It is important to note that the scale of investment in the 4IR should have a significant
return in the form of economic development and this could lead to the increased
investment in high growth technologies/companies, increased expenditure in
technologies e.g.tablets, smartwatches, and increase in exports of technological
services and products to other African countries.
For governments, the 4IR revolution presents significant and interrelated
opportunities such as improved access to better services, increasing transparency,
trust, and social cohesion, focus on intimacy at scale and reduced cost of service
delivery but also a host of risks, which must be effectively managed such as civil
liberties infringement, regulatory burden, unequal access and accelerating
Taking meaningful decisions and action is key to achieving our goals to harness the
benefits of the 4IR. We have an opportunity to learn from each other on how to
harness the technologies of the 4IR to be able to build a better South Africa and
Africa. This can only be achieved if we as South Africans can understand that 4IR is
not a sector problem and must be seen as part of national discourse, We need to
understand the economic impact of the 4IR on individual sectors as it has the
potential to improve sustainable and inclusive growth or worsen our economic
prosperity. We must actively mitigate adverse impact and leverage opportunities in
short and long-term through a coordinated and agreed with national framework to
deal with the 4IR.
It is important to reposition South Africa as a leading country on 4IR in Africa and
address all that is required to be ready for the implementation. We cannot allow the
situation where the next generation inherit a world that is becoming less and less
habitable and we do not want to stand by while our country struggles to adapt to a
fast-paced changing world.