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South Africa’s small businesses’ critical role in the 4th Industrial Revolution

South Africa’s small businesses are expected to play a critical role in the fourth industrial revolution, while access to information will revolutionise education, according to a panel discussion held in Johannesburg last week.

The discussion, hosted jointly by Siemens and CNBC Africa, explored the effects industry 4.0 would have on the country.

Delegates from business and government heard that shying away from connectivity and artificial intelligence was not the answer.

The audience was also told that even though the robots were rising, they would never replace humans.
Industry 4.0 is drastically changing the work landscape and how people live and do things with the involvement of academic institutions,

“There is no place to hide from connectivity. South Africa cannot step aside and not participate. We need to actively participate and shape South African industries to be more competitive in the global market,” Sabine Dall’Omo, Siemens Southern and Eastern Africa CEO, said.

“This revolution is not only for big fishes. We want to help smaller companies get involved and apply technologies in their businesses. This will contribute to a stronger GDP.”

This revolution was not triggered by profitability. It is not an invention but a set of paradigms because of a technology revolution.

“People need basic computer skills in this revolution. Africa must not lose out. By moving forward, there will be certain jobs that will be lost forever, but new ones created too,” CSIR Research and Development Strategy Manager Dr Daniel Visser said, adding that South Africa needed to embrace innovation and become ‘people-centric’.

He said many people were likely to see small businesses become critical in this revolution, particularly in the manufacturing sector.

Meanwhile, SAA CEO Vuyani Jarana said skills for this revolution were critical so that no one was left behind.

Poor children needed access to the same digital education as rich children, and that pragmatic action was required from government to move forward, Jarana pointed out.

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