Cisco to invest R140m to help make SA 4IR ready

US IT company Cisco will invest R140m over the next three years to support digitisation in South Africa as the country readies for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Communications, Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams announced the Memorandum of Understanding at a breakfast hosted by Brand SA on Thursday. The event is on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum Africa, being held in Cape Town this week. The forum sees business leaders across Africa coming together to discuss economy-related matters, such as ensuring inclusive growth in the face of 4IR.

Delivering a keynote address, Ndabeni-Abrahams, who dubbed herself as the "commander" of 4IR for the country stressed the importance of developing partnerships for investment in the technology space.

"We need a capable 4IR army. There can't be a revolution without an army, that is why I am the commander," she said. To build the "army" relevant skills are needed for 4IR and that requires investment, she explained.

In December 2018 Ndabeni-Abrahams met with the Cisco leadership team at a global citizen roundtable held in Sandton. Government laid out its goals for developing capabilities for 4IR. They also discussed developing an enabling environment for entrepreneurs, she said.

"If we are to lead a successful 4IR there are three things we must focus on – coordinate, collaborate and execute. If we work in silos we won't be successful, we need to complement each other," she said before announcing the collaboration with Cisco, which is headquartered in California.

The MoU will focus on 4IR skills development, and a skills development strategy will be presented to Cabinet, she added. The investment will also see Cisco establish seven more incubation centres in the country. So far there are two – one in Gauteng and another in KwaZulu-Natal, Ndabeni-Abrahams said. This is expected to contribute to job creation in the country.

In turn, Cisco repair centres will be established locally. Cisco manufactures products like routers, switches, wireless systems and security systems.

Ndabeni-Abrahams explained multinationals often struggle with not having repair centres within the countries in which they operate. The local repair centres will provide opportunities for entrepreneurs, she said.

The investment will also help provide advanced cybersecurity training to help with the protection of South Africa's government and economy from cyber-attacks, she added.

The MoU is part of Cisco's Country Digital Acceleration commitment and will contribute to South Africa's National Development Plan 2030.

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