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Is South Africa prepared for the 4th Industrial Revolution?

Authored by: Isaac Lupanda

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) represents a new era of innovation in technology that will enhance human-machine relationships, unlock new market opportunities, and fuel growth across the global economy. In South Africa, various groups are promoting the 4IR and taking steps to achieve its vision. One of the most prominent and engaging educational institutions is CTU Training Solutions. But there’s a long way to go before South Africans can enjoy the fruits of innovation-led prosperity. Firstly, a sufficient supply of advanced engineering talent needs to be in place. Beyond that, people in regular jobs need to develop the skills to deal with the disruptive effects of new technologies in their work environment. The future of South Africa’s education system might be the most important consideration in its journey towards the 4IR.

Education and skills development are central in responding to the 4IR as skills underpin national performance in terms of innovation, economic competitiveness, and the capacity to utilize and benefit from new technologies. In an effort to bridge the digital skills gap, CTU Training Solutions has established a number of training programmes and internship programmes in line with the 4IR future jobs throughout South Africa via its campuses in eight provinces of South Africa. Despite this, many South African companies are still struggling to find data-savvy workers.

Demand for tech skills in South Africa is soaring, but supply falls short. Research by Wits University and the Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa reported a “chronic shortage” of the digital skills and competencies that South African businesses require. Business leaders report experiencing difficulties in recruiting staff with relevant digital skills in the following IT sectors: Data Analyst, Data Scientist, Software Developers, AI and Machine Learning Architecture.

The country’s education system in many ways exacerbates this problem, as it isn’t geared to produce the high-end information and communication technology (ICT) skills at the scale that’s needed. The need for continuous learning is becoming increasingly important as new technologies chaFnge traditional ways of working. When asked whether they viewed continuous learning as a ‘personal strategy’ or a ‘business responsibility,’ many professionals believe that the responsibility to upskill lies with individuals rather than the companies they work for. The expectation that individuals should take responsibility for their own upskilling can be problematic.

The exact time frame for the 4IR isn’t known, though Accenture expects that by 2026, it could unlock around R1.4 trillion of value in South Africa across agriculture, infrastructure, manufacturing, and financial services.

Ensuring that South Africa’s workforce will be ready for future jobs will likely require a combination of effort from various stakeholders. Mounting enthusiasm for the 4IR from different groups is a positive sign, but translating that energy into strong, cross-sectoral partnerships will be the key to effective digital skills creation.


GetSmarter. 2019. The 4th Industrial Revolution: Will South Africa Be Ready for the Jobs of the Future? Retrieved from

Gastrow, M. 2020. Policy options for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in South Africa.