Introducing ‘Scenarios’ & Understanding the 4th Industrial Revolution in Africa


By Arinaitwe Rugyendo

I have been quiet for some time, having decided to shelve my earlier column called ‘Behind The Scenes.’

This time, I return with a new weekly column called ‘Scenarios.’

A Scenario is defined as a ‘description of possible events, or a description of the story of a movie, play, or other performance.

A description of possible events in the future is what is going to be the core of my weekly instalment to the Red Pepper readership and the country at large.

The 21st Century requires everyone, nations and governments to paint scenarios, predict the future, project events, and then take decisions basing on these postulations and more.

This week, we begin on a ‘monster’ called the 4th Industrial Revolution that Ugandans are staring at as if it is was some alien from the outer space.

 In the Construction Review Online edition of July last year, Leon Viljoen, the Managing Director of ABB Southern Africa, writes:

“At its core, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is driven by the coming together of physical and digital technologies. By gathering and analysing data from machines and robots, we are able to obtain insights into the health and performance of industrial installations, allowing us to optimize their operation to increase up-time, speed and yield. A small number of innovative companies are taking these innovations a step further and using them to develop new higher-value business models. With recent advances in artificial intelligence, we are now able to envisage autonomous operations, where machines and even entire facilities can run themselves. On top of that, breakthroughs in biotechnology, nanotechnology and quantum computing are allowing us to manipulate the world on ever smaller scales, even at subatomic levels, and to introduce technologies into our bodies, which may ultimately transform us.

Understanding The Fourth Industrial Revolution ‘Monster’

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, builds on previous revolutions, which began in the 18th century with the invention of the steam engine. The Second Industrial Revolution used electricity to create mass production, and the Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. The main differences between previous revolutions and the Fourth is the pace of change – breakthroughs are happening at a rate unprecedented in history – and the scale of disruption; today, every industry is being transformed at an accelerating speed, writes Mr. Viljoen.

Africa missed out on all the previous three revolutions. And majority of African countries are actually pre industrial. They have not even started on the first stage. But what the 4th Industrial Revolution entails, means that Africa cannot afford to be left behind. It must adapt to it or face a complete wipe out.

A recent survey by Deloitte to measure business and government readiness for Industry 4.0 in 19 countries showed that about 87% of executives believe it will lead to greater equality and stability, and three quarters said business would have much more influence than governments and other entities in shaping this future.

“In the Fourth Industrial Revolution, productivity and performance depend increasingly on intelligence. If you know in advance when a machine or a robot is going to break down, you can intervene pre-emotively to avert a disruption in your supply chain, saving huge amounts of money and keeping your customers happy,” writes Mr. Viljoen.

We are headed for world where automation, augmentation, preciseness, accuracy, attention to detail, machine learning, big data analytics, the internet of things and Artificial Intelligence will be the rule of the game.

On April 8th, President Yoweri Museveni inaugurated a task force on the 4th   Industrial Revolution and I am proud to have been recruited on the team. Although he expressed caution about the ‘too much hype around this thing,’ I can only dispel his fears by saying that Africa cannot afford to be a spectator again.

Some African countries such as South Africa, Kenya and Tunisia have already established similar taskforces. Others are consumers of the products of this particular revolution. Many African countries are already on the caravan but without similar taskforces to help coordinate it and properly advise their respective governments.

Where I did agree with the president was on the fact that one of the elements of this 4th Industrial Revolution- Artificial Intelligence- should not be seen as a replacement for everything. Agreed. It ought to be an enabler.

Indeed Uganda is vaguely structured along all the 4 revolutions. We have the peasants at about 64% who are still in the pre-industrial stage for example, living from hand to mouth. Some sections of Ugandans are in Manufacturing, while others are in the 3rd stage. Only a small number are found in the 4th stage. But all indicators show, this is where the future is.

Africa missed out on the 3 stages which is why it was colonised. It missed because there was either no space where it could play a role, or, was technically inferior to western technology such as the Maxim gun.

The 4th stage provides unlimited space and is more democratic especially on the digital highway where anybody can do anything as long as they are as intelligent as the whites are perceived to be. To refuse to embrace this stage is to say Africans are not intelligent and are sleeping.

The 2040 vision of a first world country cannot be without embracing the 4th Industrial Revolution. The future is bright but we must build it TODAY!

We return to this subject in the next week’s edition of SCENARIOS!

I can be reached on WhatsApp: 0752 466 778. Email: rugyendquotes@gmail.com and on Twitter: @RugyendoQuotes

MANAGING DIRECTOR

AFRICAN SCHOOL OF INNOVATIONS, SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
(ASIST) / e2 Young Engineers/Uganda

P.o.Box 75444 
Kampala Uganda
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