4IR in the African Context

During this global pandemic, I have been thinking of how the world will change post corona. Is this pandemic what will thrust Africa into the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)?

 

4IR

In this article we discuss the social impact that 4IR enabling technologies will have on the African continent and how they will assist in addressing various problems facing the continent mainly in the following sectors:

  1. Health – This sector will be impacted the most, technologies like AI will enable diagnosis where there are shortages of doctors and enable the inventory management of medication in rural areas.
  2. Agriculture – Technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) have the power to enable African farmers to optimize productivity and reduce wastage through “precision farming” which relies on testing and data analysis to assist in the managing of field variations.
  3. Financial – 4IR will increase financial inclusion in Africa by enabling the unbanked to participate in the economy through retail electronic payments platforms and virtual savings and credit supply technological platforms. Technologies such as block chain are providing the informal sector with opportunities to gain access to credit.

 

AI

Most of these 4IR technologies have been implemented in Africa and many more are currently in testing phase. Africa continues to push innovation; however, a few challenges have the potential to impede the advancement of 4IR in Africa.

  1. Skills Deficit: To take full advantage of 4IR, Africa needs to invest heavily in cultivating the skills and capabilities of their labor force, lack thereof may result in job losses with technology replacing humans. When the labor is skilled it can work hand in hand with the technology.
  2. Infrastructure: Africa needs to improve its digital infrastructure in order to be able to access the advanced technology that enables 4IR. In countries like South Africa where data prices are expensive, the average man on the street can’t afford data therefore cannot connect to the internet affordably and easily. The result of poor digital infrastructure is that it reduces crucial connectivity which makes it difficult to effectively activate technologies like AI.
  3. Regulations: Africa needs to tighten and increase its cyber security to ensure the safety of people data and any possible fraud. Regulations should also be placed to enable African digital leaders to scale cross border, most especially with the new Continental Free Trade Agreement, this should be the time for Africa to align their processes and procedures in order to take full advantage of the rapid changes that 4IR is bringing.

 

AI

4IR has the power to bring real fundamental social changes to Africa and to enable Africa to compete globally. It is up to African leaders to ensure that the environment is equip and conducive to forester such efforts. There was never a better time than now for Africa to move forward with the 4IR agenda and not only become a participant but a key player.

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