In a recent piece written by the African businessman and philanthropist, Alvaro Sobrinho set out his vision of the fourth industrial revolution. This revolution, he explains, will be characterised by the ability of machines to interact and respond to the environment they are in. Machines such as driverless cars, smart robots and 3D printing technologies will distinguish this particular industrial epoch.
Sobrinho, a fervent advocate of technological innovation and scientific development expressed his enthusiasm for the fourth industrial revolution, claiming that is will have “the seismic effect that steam power, electricity and digital technology had in earlier centuries.”
Dr Sobrinho is especially interested in what the fourth industrial revolution will mean for Africa. He understands that the changes offer both tremendous opportunities and possible challenges.
The opportunities are clear: the introduction of revolutionary technologies could offer huge potential for improving industry and generating wealth across the African continent. On the other hand, Dr Sobrinho recognises that such technologies, when first introduced, have a tendency to disrupt existing labour markets.
The introduction of high-tech robotics could wipe out countless jobs across Africa, concedes Sobrinho, as the continents economy is largely based on low-skilled labour of the kind most easily replicated by robots.
Ultimately, Alvaro Sobrinho concludes that the fourth industrial revolution will be positive for Africa. However, he emphasises the need to reorient the labour market by increasing and improving the education given to Africans. In particular, Sobrinho advocates a focus on science and technology in African schools and universities in order to adequately prepare African students for the demands of the job market that they will find: “We need to work fast to equip our people with high-level scientific and technical competences.”
Dr Alvaro Sobrinho finished his article with a call-to-action, asking “private sector companies operating across the continent to work with African governments, universities and the broader civil society to enhance scientific research, train STEM graduates, and encourage the development of soft skills in local labour forces.”