How can business in Africa harness the potential opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution by 2025
Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2016.
ENGLISH SUMMARY : Our world is changing faster than we can anticipate risk, or exploit opportunities. The scope, speed and impact of digital technology convergence is ushering in a completely new world and phenomenon that many experts and global leaders have called the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Unlike the second and the third industrial revolutions, the fourth revolution presents to us a dawn of a new world where the built environment will undergo a digital augmentation through a convergence of cyber physical systems. The lines where the two worlds meet, will gradually and some believe rapidly disappear and “things” will be connected to the internet and by 2050, it is estimated that 50 billion devices will be connected to a sensory virtual network in cyber space. The convergence of exponential technologies will create a new hyper-connected digital landscape that will change our world as we know it. Rapid shifts in global business will be a norm as businesses undergo digital disruption and transformation. New global players will enter the global economy and new economies, markets and industries will be born in the wake of digital disruption and transformation. Navigating the challenges, harnessing the opportunities and mastering the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are critical for the survival of economies, nations and even humanity itself. This is even truer for Africa as an emerging economy undergoing a demographic “transition-dividend”. How Africa positions itself in the Fourth Industrial Revolution will have a major impact in the rise or fall of the global economy and stability of nations. It is against this background that the research seeks to explore ways in which business in Africa can harness the potential opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution by 2025. The year 2025 was chosen as a timeframe signalling Africa’s opportune moment to harness the potential opportunities of emerging technologies and take its place in the digital global economy. To conduct the primary and secondary objectives of the research, literature review through secondary research in collaboration with futures methodologies and tools such as environmental scanning and future scenarios were utilised. A group of expert participants took part in the scenario development phase. The findings of the study showed that affordability and accessibility of emerging technologies have high impact on the ability of business in Africa to adopt and integrate these technologies. Though the cost of technology is decreasing globally, driven by Moore’s Law and the Law of Accelerated Returns, business in Africa might still find the integration and adoption of emerging technologies to be a costly endeavour given Africa’s lagging infrastructure and disabling business environment. Without smart and efficient policies and an Industry 4.0-ready infrastructure, business might find it difficult to access and harness the opportunities presented by emerging technologies. The study concluded and recommended that for business in Africa to harness the potential opportunities of emerging technologies by 2025, there have to be a cooperation and collaboration between the three entities- government, business and society. To navigate Industry 4.0 challenges and prevent further socio-economic issues from emerging, these once separate entities need to work together in a hyper-connected world that is driven by evasive technologies. Physical infrastructural development i.e. energy and connectivity, will have to be accompanied by infrastructural development of key factors in the social, political and business dimensions. This will ensure a future resilient, adaptive, inclusive and agile economy that can harness the opportunities of exponential technologies. Africa has the opportunity to rewrite its future narrative and rise like a “phoenix” as a major player in the digital economy.
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