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The President’s 4IR Commission holds a Workshop, 31 Oct

I was one of nearly 80 participants to attend a workshop for the President’s Commission. 5 Commissioners attended and headed up breakaway sessions. The meeting heard that the Commission had visited the UAE, Japan, Germany and China to study the 4IR strategies in those countries. As the Commissioners explained each of these countries have a different approach based on the needs of the country. However, some participants asked why the Commission had not looked closer to home – at the digital economy strategies of, for example, Rwanda, Kenya, or Cote d’Ivoire? In each case, there were evident successes to consider (see other articles in this Newsletter).  However, the Commission stressed its work was coming to a conclusion. A draft report was expected in January. This Workshop was the 1st in a series around the Provinces which had to be completed by the end of November.

The breakout session I attended looked at positive issues to recommend – reduction of red tape, more funding for startups, Public/private partnerships, modernizing of laws and proper implementation of laws (eg POPIA), addressing the lack of diversity in manufacturing and preparation for the AfCFTA. One breakout session, however, took the opportunity to call for import bans on any product which was produced in SA (“tear up all trade agreements”), and removal of foreigners. This view seemed to be held by the Commissioner who chaired that session rather than by those who attended the session according to some participants – a democratic deficit?

The organisers stressed that a major objective of the Commission was to identify the skills needed for 4IR in order to ensure that these skills were taught from secondary school up through university and that a number of 4IR technologies would be selected to be promoted in SA. A number of companies had combined with the promise to train 1 million young in 4IR-related technologies.

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Alastair Tempest


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