The 4th Industrial Revolution


“The Fourth Industrial Revolution, finally, will change not only what we do but also who we are. It will affect our identity and all the issues associated with it: our sense of privacy, our notions of ownership, our consumption patterns, the time we devote to work and leisure, and how we develop our careers, cultivate our skills, meet people, and nurture relationships.”

Klaus Schwab, The Fourth Industrial Revolution

The future of the global economy is a digital one. The Fourth Industrial Revolution builds on the impact of the initial Industrial Revolution of the 18th century which used water and steam power to mechanise production; the Second, which used electric power to create mass production and the Third, which used electronics and information technology to automate production.

Now the Fourth Industrial Revolution, characterised by a fusion of technologies that blurs the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres, is creating huge impact not only on systems but also their speed and scope.

Industrial revolution has the potential to increase global income levels and improve the quality of lives across the world. The 4th Industrial Revolution is changing our lives to become healthier and longer due to advances in biomedical sciences, automotive safety and technological innovation in production. As consumers, we now enjoy affordable access to new products and services from anywhere in the world and breakthroughs in telecommunications have meant that more than 30% of the world’s population use social media to communicate and be informed. On the supply side too, the impact on efficiency gains and productivity is evident through more cost-effective distribution channels, communication and logistics.  Market connectivity in global trade has brought well documented benefits in areas of economic growth and diversification.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution in Sub-Saharan Africa

For those familiar with the potential of Sub-Saharan Africa, it will come as no surprise that there is a regional drive to leapfrog development challenges of persistent poverty, underdeveloped infrastructures and skills shortages. In fact, many African countries are becoming the new global leaders in technological transformation in their push to move from commodity dependence to leverage the benefits of innovation, not only for a sustainable energy market, but also through economic diversification and enhanced productivity across a wide range of existing and new industries.

Digital Transformation of Sub-Saharan Economies

For those familiar with the potential of Sub-Saharan Africa, it will come as no surprise that there is a regional drive to leapfrog development challenges of persistent poverty, underdeveloped infrastructures and skills shortages. In fact, many African countries are becoming the new global leaders in technological transformation in their push to move from commodity dependence to leverage the benefits of innovation, not only for a sustainable energy market, but also through economic diversification and enhanced productivity across a wide range of existing and new industries.

Development of Digital Skills

It is estimated that Sub-Saharan Africa will be home to 17% of the world’s working age population and a quarter of the world’s total under-25 population by 2030, resulting in a workforce that will have increased by more than the rest of the world combined.

“By leveraging this demographic opportunity, Sub-Saharan Africa has the potential to unleash new economic possibilities created by future industries and labour markets, dramatically raising labour productivity and per capita incomes, diversifying its economy, and becoming an engine for stable economic growth, high-skilled talent and job creation for decades to come.”

The Future of Jobs & Skills in Africa, Preparing the Region for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, World Economic Forum, May 2017
Klaus Schwab, The Fourth Industrial Revolution

The World Economic Forum finds that Sub-Saharan Africa is capturing just 55% of its human capital potential against a global average of 65% and thus is unprepared for the opportunities to capitalise on the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Governments and employers across the region already identify inadequately skilled workforces as a major constraint to economic growth. Work has already begun to address future-oriented skills development and support constructive public-private dialogue for urgent and fundamental reform of education systems and labour policies to prepare workforces for the future.