Harnessing 4IR to propel Africa’s economy to address unemployment

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  • Unemployment is a significant problem in Africa, with many countries experiencing high rates of joblessness.
  • The unemployment rate in Africa was 7.1 per cent in 2020, which is significantly higher than the global average. Youth unemployment in Africa is even more severe, with the youth unemployment rate at 12.9 per cent.
  • Harnessing 4IR presents opportunities to address unemployment in Africa

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) has the potential to propel Africa’s economy and address one of its major challenges – unemployment. 4IR technologies, such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and the Internet of Things, are creating new job opportunities and improving productivity in many sectors. However, harnessing 4IR to address unemployment in Africa requires overcoming some challenges.

What is the 4th Industrial Revolution?

4IR stands for the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.” It refers to the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing and other industries, driven by the development of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and robotics. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres. This is leading to unprecedented changes in the way we live, work, and relate to one another.

One of the ways 4IR can help address unemployment in Africa is by creating new job opportunities. For example, the adoption of automation and robotics in manufacturing can increase productivity and create jobs for workers with the necessary skills. Additionally, the development of new technologies such as blockchain and AI can open up new job opportunities in fields such as cybersecurity and data analysis.

Another way 4IR can help address unemployment in Africa is by improving productivity in existing jobs. For example, the use of big data and analytics can help farmers increase crop yields and improve their livelihoods. Furthermore, the use of 4IR in the healthcare sector can help improve the quality and accessibility of healthcare services, which can have a positive impact on the overall economy.

Read: 4IR offers Africa tremendous job creation opportunities

However, implementing 4IR in Africa is not without challenges. One of the main obstacles is a lack of infrastructure, which can make it difficult to implement new technologies. Additionally, there is a shortage of skilled workers in Africa, which can make it difficult to take full advantage of the potential of 4IR.

To harness 4IR to address unemployment in Africa, several policies and initiatives can be implemented. One strategy is to invest in education and training programs to prepare workers for 4IR technologies. Additionally, governments can work to improve infrastructure and create a favorable environment for the adoption of 4IR technologies.

What skills and competencies are needed for 4IR?  

According to Serr Synergies, some of the skills needed for 4IR are foundational skills such as workforce readiness, soft skills, technical skills and entrepreneurial skills, etc.

  • Professional competence requires programming skills, interpretation of failure notifications, quality control and maintenance tasks etc.
  • Personal competencies include critical thinking, stress management and reliability etc.

To put this into context using a machine operator: apart from having technical and programming skills, the employee will have to cope with a large number of machines and for that he has to be reliable in his decision-making or aware of techniques to cope with stress and apply critical thinking from time to time when operating these machines.

harnessing the Fourth Industrial Revolution: The case of South Africa. [Photo/ Brookings]

Unemployment in Africa

Unemployment is a significant problem in Africa, with many countries experiencing high rates of joblessness. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), the unemployment rate in Africa was 7.1 per cent in 2020, which is significantly higher than the global average of 5.8 per cent. Furthermore, youth unemployment in Africa is even more severe, with the youth unemployment rate in Africa at 12.9 per cent in 2020, which is more than double the global average of 5.5 per cent.

These statistics are particularly concerning considering the population growth in Africa, which is projected to double by 2050. If current trends continue, the number of unemployed people in Africa is likely to grow significantly in the coming years.

The situation varies across the continent, with some countries experiencing higher rates of unemployment than others. According to data from the World Bank, the countries with the highest unemployment rates in Africa in 2020 were South Africa (30.1 per cent), Egypt (9.9 per cent), and Tunisia (9.8 per cent). On the other hand, countries such as Botswana and Mauritius have lower unemployment rates, at 3.7 per cent and 4.2 per cent respectively.

Unemployment in Africa is also disproportionately affecting women and young people. According to the ILO, the unemployment rate for women in Africa was 7.6 per cent in 2020, compared to 6.6 per cent for men. Furthermore, the youth unemployment rate in Africa is more than double the adult unemployment rate, at 12.9 per cent compared to 6.1 per cent.

What ChatGPT means for the future of work

ChatGPT, a large language model developed by OpenAI, has the potential to significantly impact the future of work. One of the most significant ways in which ChatGPT can impact the future of work is through the automation of certain tasks. This can help companies save time and money by reducing the need for human writers.

Read: Technology replacing humans. 4IR leaving many Africans jobless

Another way in which ChatGPT can impact the future of work is by assisting with decision-making. ChatGPT can be trained to analyze data and provide insights, which can help companies make better decisions. Additionally, ChatGPT can be used to automate customer service interactions, which can help companies respond to customer inquiries more quickly and efficiently.

ChatGPT can also have a positive impact on the future of work by augmenting human capabilities. For example, ChatGPT can be used to assist with language translation, which can help businesses expand into new markets and improve communication with customers and partners. Additionally, ChatGPT can assist with research and data analysis, which can help professionals in a variety of fields make better decisions.

While ChatGPT has the potential to automate certain tasks, it is important to note that it is not a replacement for human workers. Rather, ChatGPT can be used to augment human capabilities and improve productivity, which can help companies to grow and create new jobs.

Overall, ChatGPT has the potential to significantly impact the future of work in a number of ways. However, it is important that the implementation of ChatGPT and other AI technologies is done in a responsible and ethical manner, taking into account the potential impact on jobs and the workforce.

In conclusion, 4IR has the potential to propel Africa’s economy and address one of its major challenges: unemployment. The adoption of 4IR technologies can create new job opportunities and improve productivity in existing jobs. However, harnessing 4IR to address unemployment in Africa requires overcoming some challenges such as lack of infrastructure and shortage of skilled workers. Therefore, it is important to invest in education, training, and infrastructure to take full advantage of 4IR’s potential in Africa.

Read: How AI can solve Africa’s manufacturing value chain

Albert is a Chemical Technologist and Author. He is passionate about mining, stock market investing, Fintech and Edutech.

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