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McKinsey Report: How can South Africa embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)

How can South Africa embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) to rekindle economic growth and transformation, revitalise skills, and create high-quality jobs in large numbers?1 And how can the country mitigate the risk that the 4IR will lead to job losses – given that unemployment today stands at 29 percent, its highest level in a decade?

These questions have been top of mind for leaders from across the public, private, labour and education sectors – and are the focus of the Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

This paper is intended as a contribution to the national conversation about the 4IR and the future of work in South Africa. The paper focuses on the elements of digitisation, machine learning and automation and draws on key findings and insights from McKinsey’s research on the future of work in an age of rapid technology adoption – both in South Africa and across the globe. It also benefits from interviews with several leading businesspeople, education providers and social-sector leaders.

Building on this evidence and these insights, our research suggests that while the advance of technology could be disruptive, it primarily represents a substantial opportunity. South Africa can harness technology to reignite productivity, growth, and job creation. But, to seize that opportunity, concerted action will be needed from businesses, government, labour organisations and educational institutions.

The case for taking such action is compelling, given South Africa’s high levels of unemployment and the need to accelerate inclusive economic growth. One key challenge is that the country has been slow to nurture the skills needed for companies to compete and grow in an increasingly technology-driven world. That matters for the millions of young South Africans struggling to build their own futures.

Let’s consider the dreams and struggles of three such South Africans – Amanda, Bulelwa, and Chris. Although their stories are fictitious, they are representative of many young South Africans. They also provide a human lens through which leaders across sectors can rethink the future of work in their organisations and across society.

Click here to view the complete report on the Future of Work in South Africa

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