When I was asked to speak on the ‘opportunities for Youth in the 4IR’. I had mixed emotions on this topic. Primarily because, how do I talk about the opportunities for the youth in the 4IR when we are living in one of the most unequal societies in the continent; but then I remembered how these inequalities have been shaped as opportunities.

Our CEO, Dudu Mkhwanazi Speaks to the youth @TheMidvaal youth summit 19, about the opportunities in the 4IR .

Opportunity in Inequality

In fact, I am an example of this. Because it wasn’t until in 2008 that I learnt how to use a computer, maneuver around this monster called the internet and literally in 2013 found myself in the middle of Europe pursuing a bilingual Master’s degree in one of the most respected historical Universities in Europe. This is all because I looked at my past that had ‘INEQUAL’ written in bold and I saw an opportunity to reimagine my life and my community as it was.

4IR revolution buzzword

So, what is this 4IR revolution we talk about? It’s such a buzzword that I cannot go a day without hearing it on Tv, radio, social media etc., but do we know it? Should we be afraid? How do we fit in? as the Youth of this country? Who is responsible for bringing this revolution? How do we not panic when we hear talk about it? These are questions I hope to gauge your thinking on this morning (or at least attempt to in the next 20 minutes allocated to me).

To explain the 4IR revolution, I would say from reading and research on it is that it is a revolution that rests on unstructured data. This means that data can now be easily gathered from virtually any device, household as well as machines that can be connected wirelessly. But Klaus Schwab (CEO of WEF) also argues that the 4IR is not only about smart and connected machines and systems, that the scope is much wider. He argues that it is in fact a fusion of technologies. That is blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres; a progress defines by ‘velocity’, scope and systems with impact unlike we have ever seen before.

SA’s Unemployment rate

Now, that we understand this 4IR and what is claims to bring what is its impact on the Youth, the Youth in education, the Youth in the workforce and most importantly the unemployed Youth. According to Stats SA; South Africa’s unemployment rate is high for both youth and adults; additionally, the unemployment rate among young people aged 15-34 was 38,2%. This means that more than one in every three-young people in the labor force did not have a job in the first quarter of 2018.

We are reminded that we face not only a National but a Global crisis over jobs that are new or don’t even exist yet as the result of the 4IR. It is estimated that the 4IR revolution threatens to affect two billion young people who are at risk of missing out on jobs of the future. Combine this knowledge with the fact that only 53% of the national population has access to the Internet and only 10% of the household in SA have a fixed broadband line, and we know we are facing a massive problem.

The high unemployment rate in our country and the fact that South Africa has a massive Internet access issue.  These two are very interwoven but in hindsight are vital tools to realizing our opportunity as a country. This has forced us the youth to be innovative in our thinking and living as we approach the 4IR. Of course, most the jobs available now will not exist as we move further in the revolution, but Innovation is about identifying a problem and bringing a solution for it.

Potential employment

When I was asked to speak on the ‘opportunities for Youth in the 4IR’. I had mixed emotions on this topic. Primarily because, how do I talk about the opportunities for the youth in the 4IR when we are living in one of the most unequal societies in the continent; but then I remembered how these inequalities have been shaped as opportunities.

Opportunity in Inequality

In fact, I am an example of this. Because it wasn’t until in 2008 that I learnt how to use a computer, maneuver around this monster called the Internet and literally in 2013 found myself in the middle of Europe pursuing a bilingual Master’s degree in one of the most respected historical Universities in Europe. This is all because I looked at my past that had ‘INEQUAL’ written in bold and I saw an opportunity to re imagine my life and my community as it was.

4IR revolution buzzword

So, what is this 4IR revolution we talk about? It’s such a buzzword that I cannot go a day without hearing it on TV, radio, social media etc., but do we know it? Should we be afraid? How do we fit in? as the Youth of this country? Who is responsible for bringing this revolution? How do we not panic when we hear talk about it? These are questions I hope to gauge your thinking on this morning (or at least attempt to in the next 20 minutes allocated to me).

To explain the 4IR revolution, I would say from reading and research on it is that it is a revolution that rests on unstructured data. This means that data can now be easily gathered from virtually any device, household as well as machines that can be connected wirelessly. But Klaus Schwab (CEO of WEF) also argues that the 4IR is not only about smart and connected machines and systems, that the scope is much wider. He argues that it is in fact a fusion of technologies. That is blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres; a progress defines by ‘velocity’, scope and systems with impact unlike we have ever seen before.

SA’s Unemployment rate

Now, that we understand this 4IR and what is claims to bring what is its impact on the Youth, the Youth in education, the Youth in the workforce and most importantly the unemployed Youth. According to Stats SA; South Africa’s unemployment rate is high for both youth and adults; additionally, the unemployment rate among young people aged 15-34 was 38,2%. This means that more than one in every three-young people in the labor force did not have a job in the first quarter of 2018.

We are reminded that we face not only a National but a Global crisis over jobs that are new or don’t even exist yet as the result of the 4IR. It is estimated that the 4IR revolution threatens to affect two billion young people who are at risk of missing out on jobs of the future. Combine this knowledge with the fact that only 53% of the national population has access to the Internet and only 10% of the household in SA have a fixed broadband line, and we know we are facing a massive problem.

The high unemployment rate in our country and the fact that South Africa has a massive Internet access issue.  These two are very interwoven but in hindsight are vital tools to realizing our opportunity as a country. This has forced us the youth to be innovative in our thinking and living as we approach the 4IR. Of course, most the jobs available now will not exist as we move further in the revolution, but Innovation is about identifying a problem and bringing a solution for it.

Potential employment outcomes for the global youth 

The great thing about the 4IR is that we will be required to work in a collective effort aimed at improving the potential employment outcomes for the global youth, this means that the Business community will must actively participate in the ecosystem with the education institutions, Government, NGO’s and civil Society; Because we need to realign towards achieving both scale and impact, rather than framing solutions as scale versus impact.

We must engage Youth in corporate strategies to leverage diverse perspectives that drive innovation and creative problem solving. However, one critical component for us to truly take advantage of the opportunities that lie before us as the youth, is the investment in Fiber optics. Because internet access is no longer a luxury, it is a Human Right and our Municipalities will have to treat it as a basic utility crucial in driving the local economy. So, say we are now all connected both within a walking distance and in the comfort of our own homes, what Skills are important for us as Youth to benefit and not be left behind.

Skills for future work include:

  • Soft Skills, (Personal attributes, social skills, and communication abilities that support interpersonal relationships and interactions with others)
  • Technical Skills (Computer programming, coding, project management, financial management, mechanical functions, scientific tasks, technology-based skills).
  • Entrepreneurship (Initiative, risk-taking, resilience).

These are but few. This means there must be balanced repositioning of programs and systems with unified set of approaches. Today I want us to re imagine the 4IR as a unique opportunity to be welcomed and not a problem to be confronted when we work as a collective.