African manufacturers should think big about digital development. At the current, pace of
economic and technological advancement, too many of Africa’s growing population of
people and businesses will be denied the opportunity to live up to their potential.
Digital technologies such as ERP offer a chance to disrupt this trajectory – unlocking new
pathways for rapid economic growth, innovation, job creation and access to services that
would have been unimaginable only a decade ago. Yet there is also a growing ‘digital divide’
that needs urgent and coordinated action to mitigate.
Competing for digital skills in the Fourth Industrial Revolution with Manufacturers
The pandemic showed us that we need to continually adapt our skill sets to meet evolving
requirements in a world where the only constant is change. With the future uncertain, one
thing is for sure – ongoing skills development is the best defence to ensure organisations
can pivot to handle digital disruption with ease.
However, an obstacle in the way of this process is the overwhelming global digital skills gap.
IDC has estimated that two million jobs in artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things,
cybersecurity and blockchain will remain unfilled by 2023 due to a lack of human
talent. Africa must be concerned with upskilling. Experienced employees are in short supply,
meaning the region has had to upskill staff to adopt newer operational initiatives.
SYSPRO’s latest study, Realigning the links of the disconnected supply chain, showed that
while 38% of manufacturing businesses upskilled staff to use business systems to their full
extent to drive effective and efficient business operations in the face of disruption, 61% of
businesses had no intention of building long terms skills training programs to enable a
The ever-changing business environment should also be considered when building a global
labour force. In response to changing business needs, the global appetite for developing
technological skills is slowly increasing at the expense of traditional business skills.
According to the Global Skills Index, the demand for business skills such as sales or
communications has been decreasing, while the demand for skills in technology and data
science has grown exponentially.
Adding to the complexity, 4IR means that, increasingly, people will need to share the
workplace with Artificial Intelligence (AI) platforms and bots. This fundamentally changes
the skills matrix required to thrive in the workplace of the future. While industries begin to
reflect these changes in line with current trends, it is vital for businesses to proactively
continue with training initiatives in foundational business skills with current employees.
Refocusing on employees and talent
Businesses that fail to pay sufficient attention to skills development will likely suffer from a
variety of productivity-related challenges. This failure to acquire or adequately train the
future generation of workers for the digitally driven economy will lead to greater income
disparity, increased unemployment, and overall global economic losses.
Ultimately, while digital technology can help to create a more agile, efficient organization,
it’s people who make a business. Organizations now have the opportunity to reassess their
strategy to benefit almost every aspect of their operation. Rather than digital adoption is
only within the realm of the CIO, CTO and IT, other resources and skills within an enterprise
can be brought together to add value and drive transformation seamlessly.
To stay ahead of the curve, organisations and individuals need to commit to lifelong
learning, to acquire and sustain the relevant skill sets to succeed in the ever-changing
workplace of the future. While 4IR is dominated by technology, the skills that set people
apart from machines will be emphasised.