The South African Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

How to empower women entrepreneurs to grow Africa

This International Women’s Day, women in Africa have a lot to celebrate.

Rwanda ranked in the global Top 10 of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF’s) Global Gender Gap Report 2020. In the same index, Ethiopia ranked among the top five most-improved countries and has a woman president, Sahle-Work Zewde. Overall, since the last edition of the report, sub-Saharan Africa closed its gender gap by 68%. Despite variations across different countries, the gender gap in terms of health and survival is small in the region.

But having looked at the glass half full, it is also worth reflecting on the bad news.

The political empowerment gender gap in the region remains large. Only Ethiopia, Rwanda and South Africa have more than 48% women ministers. Regarding the economic participation and opportunity gender parity, there is also still more work to be done. Benin is the top performer in this space, having closed 84.7% of the gap.

I am deeply grateful for the opportunities, lucky breaks and support that I have received for decades from the many men in my life, from my father, brothers, friends, mentors and bosses. That notwithstanding, my experience working in the world of economics and finance, which is still dominated primarily by men leaders, the jury is still out about how ready the world is for women leaders.

It’s too much to ask women leaders to conform to the status quo. We must boost the growth of women business leaders.

A New Dawn

Africa has a long tradition of women entrepreneurs, with the most famous being the so-called Mama Benz of West Africa. Mama Benz became so wealthy by trading brightly coloured cotton fabrics preferred for local clothing that she could afford to buy Mercedes cars.

According to the World Bank, sub-Saharan Africa also has the highest rate of entrepreneurship globally, and this is the only region where the majority of entrepreneurs are women.

Yet most women businesses remain stuck at the micro level, unable to grow due to a range of factors. The report, Profiting from Parity: Unlocking the Potential of Women’s Businesses in Africa 2019, finds that barriers to growth and profitability include social norms, networks and strategic business decisions. In the context of the fourth industrial revolution, it is also alarming to note that the technology gender gap is widening, further crippling the growth potential of women entrepreneurs.

Also worrying is the growing digital divide – women are being left behind in the era of the fourth industrial revolution

With a view to showcase women entrepreneurs tackling these obstacles using new technologies, the WEF launched the first edition of Africa’s Top Women Innovators ahead of the World Economic Forum on Africa meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, in 2016. The top entrepreneurs were Natalie Bitature, Musana Carts; Audrey Cheng, Moringa School; Lilian Makoi Rabi, bimaAFYA; Nneile Nkholise, iMED Tech Group; and Larissa Uwase, Carl Group.

In 2017, the second edition of Africa’s Top Women Innovators was held ahead of the WEF on Africa meeting in Durban. The top entrepreneurs were Oluwayimika Angel Adelaja, Fresh Direct Nigeria; Temie Giwa-Tubosun, Lifebank; Esther Karwera, Akorion; Darlene Menzies, Finfind; Aisha Pandor, SweepSouth; and Charity Wanjiku, Strauss Energy.

These initiatives to highlight women-led start-ups leveraging the fourth industrial revolution raised awareness about the innovations emerging from Africa, as well as the opportunities and challenges faced by women entrepreneurs. Accordingly, at the WEF on Africa meeting 2019 in Cape Town, the first Africa Scaling Start-ups Programme was launched with the goal of helping scalable start-ups that have raised more than $1-million to grow in their industries and markets.

Participating women start-ups were Fatoumata Ba, Janngo; Charlene Chen, BitPesa; Audrey Cheng, Moringa School; Yael Joffe, 3X4 Genetics;  Leanne Kemp, Everledger; Doreen Kessy, Ubongo; Mary Mwangi, Data Integrated; Vivian Nwakah, Disrupt Tech Africa; and Sandiso Sibisi, Co Open Innovation Studios.

Bridging the gaps

With deliberate efforts, the trickle of about 20% of high-growth women start-ups can increase and bridge the inclusivity gaps in their respective economies and societies.

Forging ahead also requires society at large to confront the ugly reality of physical and emotional violence that women are too-often confronted with. Violence against women is a growing phenomenon and holds back individual progress both at work and at home. Personal security must be stepped up urgently.

Also worrying is the growing digital divide – women are being left behind in the era of the fourth industrial revolution. It does not bode well for the continent’s future if its potential entrepreneurs are locked out of the digital economy locally, regionally and globally.

In 2016, the WEF  launched the Internet for All initiative in Rwanda, followed by a launch of a country programme in SA in 2017. This initiative was a global call to action targeting about 4-billion people worldwide with no internet access. In recent years, there have been additional initiatives specifically designed to bridge the digital gender gap, including the Africa Smart Women and Girls initiative. More efforts are needed to find and scale innovative solutions.

A Better Future

As a child, I was a staunch advocate for equal opportunity. Decades later, I am personally taken aback by how little progress has been made in expanding the representation of women in business and politics.

I am grateful for the guidance and mentorship of, among others, former co-chairs of the WEF on Africa including Ellen Agler, Winnie Byanyima, Bineta Diop, Monhla Wilma Hlahla, Arancha Gonzalez Laya, Frannie Léautier, Graça Machel, and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. Under their leadership, we have steadily been able to increase the active participation of women leaders shaping the African agenda through public-private collaboration.

Still, it feels like a never-ending climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak. This must change. The evidence for actively integrating women leaders in management and leadership teams is unequivocal. It results in better decisions. It results in better outcomes. It is a wise decision for a better world. Let’s not just make it happen; let’s make it easier. 

Kanza is head of the Regional Agenda for Africa, World Economic Forum.

Why fixing Africa’s data gaps will lead to better health policies

African countries continue to work towards achieving national and regional commitments to improving data collection and use. But it’s critical that governments invest in relevant, timely and accurate data production for decision-making. Data actors including data managers, statisticians and data analysts need to be involved at every stage. They need to be part of mapping out the problems as well as designing research methodologies and figuring out how to collect, analyse and disseminate data. A wide range of data, including earth observation and geospatial data, needs to be leveraged to review progress in meeting health and wellbeing targets. This is critical to improving the effectiveness and sustainability of health systems.

SOURCE: THE CONVERSATION

For the full paper please visit https://theconversation.com/why-fixing-africas-data-gaps-will-lead-to-better-health-policies-111869

Artificial Intelligence in Africa – Will 2020 be a Tipping Point for African AI?

Way back in 2017, one could arguably view as the mainstream awakening of AI’s “Third Coming” by the release of PwC’s study of the economic impact of artificial intelligence on the world’s economy by 2030. The study found that AI could increase global GDP by 14% (approx $115.7 trillion) making it the biggest commercial opportunity in the global economy. That very same report estimates that the technology could also increase the GDP of Africa, Oceania and other Asian markets by 5.6 %, which is about $11.2 – trillion (but excludes China and developed Asia) so it stands to reason that Africa will reap significant economic rewards from AI – Right?  However, the 2019 Government AI Readiness Index paints a familiar and somewhat predictably glum picture for the African continent in global indices of this nature. There are no African countries in the top 50 positions, and only 12 African countries (out of 54 in the list) are in the top 100. The top five placed African governments –Kenya, Tunisia, Mauritius, South Africa, and Ghana– reflects the well-documented developments in the technology sectors of these countries.

SOURCE: AI EXPO AFRICA

For the full paper please visit http://aiexpoafrica.com/2020/01/06/artificial-intelligence-africa-will-2020-tipping-point-african-ai/

4IR in Africa: The reality, opportunities, and risks

If Africa is to catch up with the rest of the developed world in terms of understanding and unpacking the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), it needs to start with defining it the “African way”. This was a common thread in 4IR panel discussions at Daily Maverick’s The Gathering. Digital entrepreneur and former executive director of the Cape Digital Foundation, Emma Kaye, warned that careful consideration needs to be given as to how 4IR is translated to the South African reality. Although smart cities have become a major talking point in government, Kaye raised a concern that the concept of smart townships has not yet been mooted.

SOURCE: DAILY MAVERICK

For the full paper please visit https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2020-03-06-4ir-in-africa-the-reality-opportunities-and-risks/

Blockchain of Things (BCoT): The Fusion of Blockchain and IoT Technologies

Both Blockchain and Internet of Things (IoT) are the two major disruptive emerging constituents of the contemporary internet-enabled era of technology. As per Gartner Hype Cycle of Emerging Technologies 2018 (Panetta, 2018), both of these technologies are currently in their “peak of inflated expectations” while both are projected to highly likely require another “5 to 10 years” to mature. In fact, comparing with the Gartner’s 2017 (Gartner, 2017) predictions, Blockchain – without changing much – hovered at its current ongoing position on the hype cycle. On the contrary, the locus of IoT has progressed reasonably – prevailing within the same arc (i.e. peak of inflated expectations) of the curve – moving downwards crossing the pinnacle – however, IoT pedalled back on the level of maturity from “2 to 5 years” to the current state of “5 to 10 years”. Such regression of IoT, in terms of reaching maturity level, however, is justified by its widespread adoption in multifaceted applications and the security concerns raised thus far. In fact, both of these technologies are distributed, autonomous and mostly decentralised systems possessing connatural potentials to act as complementary to each other. IoT requires strengthening its security features while Blockchain inherently possesses them due to its extensive use of cryptographic mechanisms and Blockchain – in an inverted manner – needs contributions from the distributed nodes for its P2P (Peer-to-peer) consensus model while IoT rudimentarily embodies them within its architecture. This chapter, therefore, acutely dissects the viability, along with prospective challenges, of incorporating Blockchain with IoT technologies – inducing the notion of Blockchain of Things (BCoT) – as well as the benefits such consolidation can offer.

For the full paper please visit https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1910/1910.06898.pdf

Industrial blockchain based framework for product lifecycle management in industry 4.0

Product lifecycle management (PLM) aims to seamlessly manage all products, information, and knowledge generated throughout the product lifecycle for achieving business competitiveness. Conventionally, PLM is implemented based on standalone and centralized systems provided by software vendors. The information of PLM is hardly to be integrated and shared among the cooperating parties. It is difficult to meet the requirements of the openness, interoperability and decentralization of the Industry 4.0 era. To address these challenges, this paper proposed an industrial blockchain-based PLM framework to facilitate the data exchange and service sharing in the product lifecycle. Firstly, we proposed the concept of industrial blockchain as the use of block-chain technology in the industry with the integration of IoT, M2M, and efficient consensus algorithms. It provided an open but secured information storage and exchange platform for the multiple stakeholders to achieve the openness, interoperability and decentralization in era of industry 4.0. Secondly, we proposed and developed customized blockchain information service to fulfil the connection between a single  node with the blockchain network. As a middleware, it can not only process the multi-source and heterogeneous data from varied stages in the product lifecycle, but also broadcast the processed data to the blockchain network. Moreover, smart contract is used to automate the alert services in the product lifecycles. Finally, we illustrated the blockchain-based application between the cooperating partners in four emerging product lifecycle stages, including co-design and co-creation, quick and accurate tracking and tracing, proactive maintenance, and regulated recycling. A simulation experiment demonstrated the effectiveness and efficiency of the proposed framework. The results showed that the proposed framework is scalable and efficient, and hence it is feasible to be adopted in industry. With the successful development of the proposed platform, it is promising to provide an effective PLM for improving interoperability and cooperation between stakeholders in the entire product lifecycle.

For the full paper please visit https://reader.elsevier.com/reader/sd/pii/S0736584519300596?token=C57A5E4C87C5A13533C3C528ABEEF224FC1E098A24B4549ECC28FD702E15A9C5EDBA2EB8C2A8B0A2286F705E8214A698

World Economic Forum 2019: Globalization 4.0 – a better version

Between 22 and 25 January 2019, the World Economic Forum (WEF), the most important annual meeting of political, economic, scientific leaders and personalities, took place in Davos, Switzerland. The central theme of this edition was Globalization 4.0 (Shaping a Global Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution); a concept used here2 to explain the new era of intelligent and ubiquitous technologies that will connect everyone and everything in ways that have not been achieved so far by the previous “engines” of globalization – steam, electricity or computing. Among the participants there was a broad consensus that international relations and the world economy are at a turning point, so that the 2019 meeting was intended to be the appropriate framework for promoting a comprehensive approach to the more complex problems of the contemporary world.

For the full paper please visit https://search.proquest.com/openview/cece1ae7dc01253aba2fe5d81eccde48/1?cbl=1876337&pq-origsite=gscholar

Capturing the fourth industrial revolution a regional and national agenda

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) — characterized by the fusion of the digital, biological, and physical worlds, as well as the growing utilization of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, robotics, 3D printing, the Internet of Things, and advanced wireless technologies, among others—has ushered in a new era of economic disruption with uncertain socio-economic consequences for Africa. However, Africa has been left behind during the past industrial revolutions. Will this time be different? So far, it does not appear that Africa has yet claimed the 21st century, as it still lags behind in several indicators essential for a successful digital revolution. Improvements in Africa’s ICT sector have been largely driven by expanding mobile digital financial services: The region had nearly half of global mobile money accounts in 2018 and will see the fastest growth in mobile money through 2025. But artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain are also attracting interest in Africa, as they have the potential to successfully address social and economic challenges there. And there are so many other areas in which 4IR technology can be transformational.

For the full paper please visit https://www.africaportal.org/publications/capturing-fourth-industrial-revolution-regional-and-national-agenda/

Public sector monitoring and evaluation in the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Implications for Africa

The current era of transformative scientific and technological advances is reshaping traditional government business as it is blurring geographical boundaries and posing a challenge to existing regulatory frameworks. Aim: This article explores the implications of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) on current public sector monitoring and evaluation (ME) in Africa. Setting: The 4IR (also called Industry 4.0) is thought to bring about enormous benefits associated with increased efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery. However, even with the highly anticipated opportunities related to automated and digital transformations in the 4IR, governments in African countries need to understand the challenges ahead and will need to measure and mitigate the impact of the unpredictable and rapidly changing products and services created for the public. Methods: Using the documentary review method to collect data, this research answers the following guiding questions: (1) How has the 4IR been harnessed in Africa to improve public sector service delivery? (2) How can the 4IR be harnessed to improve ME in the public sector in Africa? and (3) What are the implications of the 4IR technologies on public sector ME in Africa? Results: Findings reveal that various 4IR disruptive technologies have already been fully adopted in public service delivery in Africa. The 4IR disruptive technologies have the capacity to capture or collect and analyse multi-dimensional information or data from multiple contextual variables, with minimal costs and time in both qualitative and quantitative formats. However, findings disclose that the use of big data in evaluation requires extra new skills training and critical discussions among ME specialists, technologists, economists, engineers and tech companies as a whole so as to significantly enhance the quality, validity and reliability of the data captured by the technologies. Conclusion: Deep integration, collaboration and embracing change are needed to efficiently manage and control the multi-stakeholder nature of the 4IR innovative technologies. This article asserts that policies on the 4IR technologies need to be adaptive, inclusive, sustainable and human centred in order to efficiently regulate or guide these innovative technologies without curtailing the future opportunities.

For the full paper please visit https://apsdpr.org/index.php/apsdpr/article/view/318/479

Is the fourth industrial revolution relevant to sub-Sahara Africa?

While the 4IR has the potential to impact on all industries and all nations, regardless of their location or state of development, many of the discussions of the 4IR and its impact are focused on advanced economies. What are the prospects and constraints of the 4IR to emerging economies in sub-Sahara Africa? To what extent is the 4IR relevant to sub-Sahara Africa where there is a large informal economy, limited public infrastructure, where technical skills levels are low, and advanced technology can be found in only a few sectors that are dominated by foreign multinational companies and staffed by expatriate workers? What is the relevance of policy development towards the 4IR in the region given its young population profile, and emerging skill shortages in key sectors? The paper draws on secondary literature to highlight the challenges and to identify the policy developments that have been developed in the region.

For the full paper please visit https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/09537325.2018.1542129?needAccess=true

Agile Policy Development

We’re co-developing and piloting governance and policy frameworks to keep up with the pace of technology evolution.

National and Global Cooperation for Impact

The Centre draws on private sector, government, academia and civil society to co-design technology governance frameworks.

Brochure: Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution is a newly established focal point within the international community for multistakeholder dialogue and concrete cooperation on governance challenges and opportunities presented by
advanced technologies. Read more here.

Download our brochure

Addressing challenges in South Africa and the Region

We address technology areas relvant to South Africa and our neighbors, that address our societal and economic needs.