African Union headquarters
African Union headquarter

African policymakers have been urged to effectively tap opportunities presented by the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) so as to augment Africa’s global competitiveness, with particular emphasis given to addressing the current and future demands of the continent’s burgeoning young population.

The latest call was made by the African Union (AU) on Monday, as it emphasized the critical role of the fourth industrial revolution in reaping the continent’s demographic dividend.

Business24

The 55-member pan-African bloc, noting that the African continent will have an estimated 830 million youth by 2050, said “successfully harnessing the youth’s potential will support broad-based innovations increased productivity, and lead to inclusive and sustainable economic growth across the region.”

“The 4IR is bringing the hope of a new era for Africa’s transformation and prosperity, as it is changing the way we live, think and work, through rapid advancements in digital technology, new materials, especially when it comes to advanced robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning,” the AU said in a statement.

The 4IR “will enable companies and organizations across the continent to benefit from efficiencies at the workplace” in which faster adoption of digital technology will further enable African companies and organizations to work smarter and faster, resulting in the creation of value gains for customers and users, it said.

“More specifically, African policymakers need to ensure that the 4IR take advantage of the opportunities associated with a young population, and the expected demographic dividend,” the AU stressed.

“Tying these opportunities together in a region that is urbanizing faster than any other should be a strategic imperative,” it added.

The AU’s call has been also echoed by experts and analysts in the economic development sector, calling on African governments and private-sector actors to step up joint efforts to embrace advancements in the digital revolution that are fundamental to Africa’s socio-economic development under the 4IR.

Speaking to Xinhua, Costantinos Bt. Costantinos, who served as an economic advisor to the AU and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said that “Africa stands on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything that not just Africa but humankind has experienced before.”

“We do not yet know just how it will unfold, but one thing is clear that the response must be integrated and comprehensive, involving all African stakeholders, from the public to private sectors to academia and civil society,” Costantinos said in a recent interview with Xinhua.

“When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace, and Africa should analyze the scale, scope, and complexity of the transformation,” the scholar said.

Costantinos, who is also a professor of public policy at the Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, however, underscored the need to protect Africa’s indigenous cultural identity from the “disruptive nature of the digital revolution.”

“Indeed, globalization impacts indigenous cultural identities of African societies, but sustainable development will not be achieved without economic growth and environmental sustainability for the future generation,” he said.

The AU’s call also came ahead of an upcoming ministerial conference, slated from March 9-14 at the headquarters of the AU in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, that endeavors to exploit the fourth of industrial revolution to address youth unemployment in Africa.

African economic ministers and experts attending the conference are expected to assess the continent’s readiness to absorb the shocks of the “4th Wave” to harness the opportunities of the digital era, according to the AU.

The high-level conference, which will be held under the theme “Leveraging the 4th Industrial Revolution to address Youth Unemployment in Africa,” is expected to drive the realization of Africa’s 50-year continental development Agenda 2063 that, among other things, seeks “a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development,” it was noted.

According to the AU, the continental gathering “will also identify the drivers of change and its likely consequences over the next half-century, and propose policy choices that will enable Africa to fulfill its potential in the years ahead.” Enditem

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