SA youth in pole position to harness the power of the fourth industrial revolution

South African youth are primed for the next revolution, becuase our history is revolution. Picture: iStock
South African youth are primed for the next revolution, becuase our history is revolution. Picture: iStock

“Inkunzi isematholeni” is an isiZulu phrase which can be directly translated as “the bull is in the calves”, although its ultimate meaning is “leaders of tomorrow come from the youth of today”.

These are reflections we have every month of June – as this is Youth Month – because it’s still inconceivable how young people from tender age of 13 could commit themselves to a cause so much greater than themselves. Acting general manager of human resources at Transnet Port Terminals, Brenda Magqwaka, reflects on the significance of youth in the fourth industrial revolution era

South Africa moves multiple cargoes such as containers, vehicles, mineral bulk commodities like manganese and chrome, as well as agricultural bulk commodities like wheat. It’s a complex operation with many role players.

For Transnet Port Terminals, these cargoes move through 16 sea terminals and three inland terminals across seven ports – and less than 25 years ago, these were all run on paper. No automation, no software, little integration and little effectiveness in gate planning, equipment control and ground stowage strategies.

Maintaining a youth representation of about 39% in relation to overall company population has impacted our company positively, and the percentage is growing. We’ve survived over the years because of our ability to nurture young talent and expose young people to our complex yet dynamic world of logistics. In 2018/2019 alone, we invested a total of R32.5 million in training more than 160 young people across technical, logistics, planning, administration and supporting disciplines. These are the engineers in training, the artisans in training, the freight handling and business administration learnership recipients as well as the young professionals in training. We treasure this talent. And even if we are not able to absorb all of them at the end of their term, our contribution has been to train them to be competitive anywhere in the world.

Through initiatives like company hackathons, with huge youth participation, we’ve produced world-class solutions to current business challenges, where making use of the internet of things (IoT) has enabled us to do prognostic condition monitoring of our equipment.

Making use of real-time tracking in operational performance through a dashboard that has a national view, is another enhancement to planning in a bid to refine our efficiency.

Experimentation is becoming integrated in our day-to-day approach as we strive to come up with innovations that make our service offering superior. There are many other examples that showcase the contribution made by youth in our environment and the company leadership has provided the necessary support and created an enabling environment.

While older generations understand that the digital culture is shaping the lives of youth, there is an emerging identity of South Africans who are finding their own solutions.

In his state of the nation address, Presidents Cyril Ramaphosa significantly made an undertaking to reduce the cost of data in South Africa following a call by young people. We have witnessed that with accessibility to data comes breakthroughs and East and West Africa have led this revolution.

According to the United Nations, there is a breed of young African software developers seeking solutions to everyday problems. Their innovations are across business, agriculture, health and education and it is anticipated that mobile applications could just become a game changer for Africa’s development. The era we find ourselves in as the world requires an injection of youthful thinking that will integrate with institutional knowledge and expertise built over the years. And to navigate this era, we will require an army of young men and women who are digitally savvy to find solutions to business problems, introduce game changing ideas and take us forward.

We’ve been here before. How many countries in the world do you know of – whose youth advocated for change and became victorious?

Brenda Magqwaka is the acting general manager for human resources at Transnet Port Terminals in Durban.

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