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Fourth Industrial Revolution… What is the African Agenda?

By Tiko Iyamu / Professor of Information Technology at the Cape Peninsular University of Technology, Cape Town, South Africa

The key aspects of the Africa 4IR agenda should be digitalisation, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, robotics, big data, and 3D printing, which are enabled and supported by Internet of Things, mobility of service, and security of cyber.

These have enormous and obvious significant implications for health, education, industrialisation and decentralisation of infrastructure, which ultimately create employment, growth and development.

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AFRICANS do not need to be reminded of our increasingly appalling state because it could possibly ignite headache, heartache or more irritational damage to some people. Despite the fear of what we might find from self-introspection, let’s acknowledge one more time that the Africa continent accounts for over 12% of the world population, however, such significan ce presence generates less than 1% of global GDP.

Painstakingly, Africa has enough intellectual capacity and natural resource to excel beyond its current status quo. In the technology space, the continent consume way more than it innovates. So, we cannot disassociate this obnoxious situation from technology and industrial revolutions.

There was the 1st industrial revolution (IR) between 1760 and 1840, which awakened problematisation of ideas in the areas of mining and textile. Although implementation and transition from current to desired states encountered challenges and constrains, foundations at least found its audacious space in many parts of the world, Europe and North America specifically.

Our forefather could be forgiven, as it is in our DNA, to do so even when no apologies were tendered.

As we continue our mundane, the second wave of industrialisation came in 1871 and swept through as quickly as in 1914. Those who had vision advanced in the electrification, which they saw as a fundamental wheel for growth and development. In the course, African countries were preoccupied, reminiscing and romancing a one-way relationship, a beautiful dummy from the Whiteman. Nigeria’s greatest achievement was Lord Lugard’s sow of landmine tagged ‘amalgamation’ of the Northern and Southern regions!

And the third industrial revolution came in the 20th century. An era of computing and other machineries, which abrogate the need for human power. A revolution that endorsed the asymmetric between human and technology, for effective, development and growth of society. A revolution well known and remembered to have enacted information as the most powerful asset, a root and foundation to industrialisation, developments and growths. What did Africa achieve from the wave? Consumption! This is solely because the continent was unprepared and had no agenda.

In these industrial revolutions that preceded, let’s agree that African governments were literally on anaesthetics, while the European and North American counterparts took the advantages and enhanced their technological innovations in many areas, particularly in telecommunication, logistics and transport. From the IR perspective, these periods seem to portray that our values, norms, cultural or traditions were confused with generational vision and the need to assert relevance, and proclamation of preservation.

It is no longer news that the 4IR is here. It promises loads of baskets, some are prima facie, and others can be associated with empiricism and realism, for countries and continents.

Thus, we would like to ask, what is really the African agenda? I am not referring to the bullet points that have been concocted in a website to try to validate mediocrity, incompetence and lack of vision. I am asking a question of fundamental importance for the benefits of today and future generations. We need achievable micro, macro, meso research projects that resonate with the nomadic, rural and urban communities, with short, medium and long terms’ goals and objectives. Preparedness is our opportunity, which only knowledgeability can achieve, and not the political jargon or popularist agenda that find coherence with the vast majority of the elites.

So, who takes the lead? I read and hear of pockets of organisations, split into regions, Arab Maghreb Union (AMU); East African Community (EAC); Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS); Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS); and Southern African Development Community (SADC). Despite the regional and structural positions, the 4IR should focus on developing the African markets in the way we know it.

If industrialisation is to prevail, the revolution associated with it should be seen as a challenge and an opportunity for the policy makers, to provide realistic agenda that will help Africa leapfrog over development hurdles, toward advancement of the communities. Although, history says contrary, but I remain hopeful.

In doing so, here are a few things that should not be mysterious about the African 4IR agenda. Firstly, the constituents should be clear, not dodgy or politically misguided. Secondly, originality. It is worthless to cosmeticise the western world agenda, copy and paste it as our own. Africanise the 4IR, for the African environment, to the benefit of the Africa people. Thirdly, without distinctiveness, the African agenda is refractory to articulation and execution, which can make it overly of context, relevance, and value from the perspective of the indigenes. These can enact purposive action and neutralise constraints limiting intentions and actions. For example, mobility is key, and it should not be vague, so it could promote structural change. The ranging advancement of technology based on 4IR has a sizeable platform for opportunities.

I foresee the African agenda as a litmus test on whether, one more time, we as a people can actually live up to the meaning of our potency creed. Otherwise, the 4IR run its equivocal speed away from us, and we remain only quixotic to our future. The key aspects of the Africa 4IR agenda should be digitalisation, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, robotics, big data, and 3D printing, which are enabled and supported by Internet of Things, mobility of service, and security of cyber. These have enormous and obvious significant implications for health, education, industrialisation and decentralisation of infrastructure, which ultimately create employment, growth and development. We need to convergent with a distinctive character, to formulate and execute a realisable agenda, which can enable communities to exert themselves of accomplishments at substantial equality, superiority and value.

 

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