SA should prepare for the 4IR

2019-11-27 06:00
Matshidiso Pholoana Social Observer

Matshidiso Pholoana Social Observer

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The current unemployment statistics published by Statistics South Africa paint a bleak picture of our country’s economic growth and implies that the economic trajectory is unsustainable.

Stats SA indicated that unemployment has augmented to 29,1% – the highest rate in the past 16 years. Youth, who struggle to make it in the labour force, are the majority of those unemployed.

In his State of the Nation address in February 2019, President Cyril Ramaphosa alluded to the fact that South Africa must have policies and strategies that will position it to be a competitive player in the digital revolution through the implementation of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

According to, the 4IR is the current and developing environment in which disruptive technologies and trends such as the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) are changing the way we live and work. In simple terms, the 4IR replaces the old way of doing things through advanced technological equipment.

The definition of 4IR and its application negatively impacts job creation.This clearly depicts that companies are likely to replace human beings with technological equipment.

To support this statement, one of the largest banks in South Africa, Standard Bank, announced this year it will cut around 1 200 jobs and close 91 branches as part of efforts to digitise its retail and business bank.

People are hardly going to the banks to deposit cash, request bank statements, etc. as internet usage has reduced the influx of people.

This presents a quagmire for the country as it wants to position itself for the implementation of 4IR whilst it threatens job opportunities.

  • The challenge needing attention is how to address imbalances between the 4IR and unemployment. Among my key proposals are: The curriculum from primarily schools needs to be reviewed so it accommodates the changing technological environment;
  • Provide adequate technological skills training to the current employees in their respective areas;) Create an enabling environment for investment in agriculture by providing finical solution to emerging farmers; ) More learnerships and internships to capacitate students in TVET colleges and universities; ) Promote local products (as key to increase the demand which will lead to job creation.

It is worth noting that the current international investment lobbying is expected to assist in combating the unemployment catastrophe and to transform the posture of the economy.

  • During the South African Investment Conference held recently in Sandton, Ramaphosa announced that the government had secured international and local investment commitments of R363 billion. I hope investors honour these commitments to realise real economic spin-offs. Matshidiso Pholoana, an assistant-director at Free State Treasury, writes in his personal capacity.

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