The Fourth Industrial Revolution is going to create a change I call “smart revolution” - when society is able to simplify and do more incredible things with less.
This change will bring about an end to wasteful means of production, transform the education system, spur commerce among different communities by virtually eliminating trade bottlenecks as will be seen in e-commerce, improve governance and transparency, and lead to the emergence of new industries. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is set to revolutionize the way we work and learn across the entire African community.
Agriculture, the engine of our economy, will be revamped. Information on farming has been limited, market price information has previously not been available and we have therefore had to take a gamble on demand and supply information, all of which has negatively impacted my community, a community that is 80% dependent on agriculture for its livelihood.
With this revolution, we shall see less obstacles for farmers and others working in agriculture. Farmers will be able to access much more information than ever before, and thus expand the market for their produce. This will be able to play with demand-supply information so they can produce what is needed, helping to eliminate waste and introduce more efficient methods of distributions.
Many spheres of our life will be shaped by this revolution, leading to redesigned industry sectors, such as e-health, e-government, e-learning and e-tourism to mention but a few.
However, as an African youth, I define the Fourth Industrial Revolution as “people and skills” while looking at it as a double-edged sword, with good outcomes only if it is well-harnessed. It is a challenge for my community. I believe that technology is evolving too quickly and could undermine our traditional values, while incoming income disparity keeps widening the digital divide, which is unsustainable on every level.
African society is on a collision course with the developed world, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution will either reverse this trend or exacerbate it.
Automation has been at the heart of every industrial revolution, and this latest one is no different. Our survival, therefore, will be knowledge-based. But whether Africans have the knowledge or means of acquiring knowledge remains an important question for the continent. To date, Africa has failed to improve its education system, which is reflected in its high levels of illiteracy compared to the rest of the world.
To manage the risks and reap the rewards of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Africa should focus on designing an African-focused strategy geared towards the common goal of transforming its entire education system. And this should start with educating the educators, many of whom are not tech-savvy, which is an enormous shortcoming. Unless we equip our teachers, we shall witness an increase of people in the job market with obsolete skills - a huge risk for our economy.
Next in line, authorities should look at policies that promote the participation of citizens in the policy making process. Ignoring this is a setback to development.
Meanwhile, the gender gap in the African community is large, and this divide poses an immense threat to productivity. All stakeholders in the Fourth Industrial Revolution should bear this in mind, and make sure the participation of women does not lag behind that of men.
Last but not least, the rewards of the Fourth Industrial Revolution shall be realized only if young people are inspired to take charge. Partnerships between adults and young people can lead to success where programmes designed by adults for youth have failed.
Recognition of the significant asset that young people represent, and the fact that our future is tied to our development, are essential ingredients for economic and social stability both today and tomorrow.
This article was first published on Medium, as part of the World Economic Forum’s essay contest for Davos 2016. The shortlist will be announced later this week.
Author: Charisma D. Kakuru, co-founder, African Youth in ICT