Africa will lose from the 4th Industrial Revolution and may lose again in the 5th

Let us be realistic and set the scene straight. Africa is not ready for any industrial revolution that is digital or Artificial Intelligence (AI) related. Most African countries in Africa do not have enough energy to supply population demands and we haven’t even touched on fibre. Nigeria, a country with a large population of 182 million has available power capacity of R4,600MW. Nobody can explain how they survive given the 52,800MW available in South Africa which has only 55 million people (hence the popular notion, “the dark continent”).

The question we should therefore be asking is, do we really believe that all those regions without power/electricity somehow have fibre underground? Really? Fibre is a key component in any country getting some headway into the 4th industrial revolution. Even that is not enough as that nation needs an educated population that has a second nature level understanding of computers/technology (good cellphone use won’t cut it).

So what are the advantages of the 4th Industrial Revolution for Africa? We expect to see Africa become a consumer of the new technologies like what happened with mobile telecommunications. We all remember how mobile in Africa leapfrogged a stage of telephone line infrastructure and saved several African countries from remaining in the stone-age.

So which investor will put fibre in an area with no electricity and who will educate the African population into the 4th Industrial Revolution? Nobody. Other countries already have their challenges, which mostly include remaining competitive in this new technological era. For now, these revolutions are only going to worsen Africa’s dire youth unemployment situation and increase the debt burden for new generations as African nations buy more technological enhancements from wealthier nations.

Africa must wait and consume whatever technology comes from more advanced nations and maybe build up enough expertise to at least become a beneficiaries of the 5th Industrial Revolution. Only time will tell if it’s not already too late…


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