There is an argument to be made that Africa has to an extent missed out on the opportunity for large scale industrialisation given that many of the conditions that allowed for industrialisation to take place at scale in the West – and in some Asian economies – are in fact structurally absent for most African economies.
The question that then needs to be asked is whether the factory model is even still applicable to African economies considering just how ruthlessly competitive the global trade regime has become.
PFERD South Africa points out that many of the technologies characterised by the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) provide African countries with the ability to leapfrog development hurdles. However, in order to harness the opportunities presented by the 4IR requires that the continent has the right infrastructure in place.
A 4IR future requires certain infrastructure to be in place including a reliable energy supply, faster and better Internet connectivity and 5G mobile technology. The latter, for example, will enable the Internet of Things to provide for more productivity and efficiency.
Accelerated digitisation, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, robotics and 3D printing are all key features of the 4IR – and all of them have implications for education and employment.