IoT, 4IR
Businessman pressing virtual button in quantum computing concept

As I write this edition’s editorial [ESI Africa Issue 4 2019], leaders from government, corporate and civil society have gathered for the World Economic Forum on Africa (WEFA).

This article first appeared in ESI Africa Issue 4-2019.
Read the full digimag here or subscribe to receive a print copy here

By the time you read this, the forum will have concluded and the attendees will be back in their respective offices – and are hopefully taking time to implement proposals and learnings.

However, the record of accomplishment for such large high-profile gatherings does not foster hope. Look to the yearly COP gathering, which took just over two decades to cultivate the Paris Agreement.

Even though the climate change accord is still a work in progress, it does show that the coming together of heads of state can change the ‘storyboard’ of our future.

This year’s WEFA agenda aims to push new partnerships to create sustainable employment opportunities. This objective is on point as too many of our youth are ill-prepared for the job market or find it gravely lacking in opportunity. There is also the threat of an evolving job market as the energy transition shakes the core of historically secure employment.

You will agree that the encroaching solar PV industry is already having an impact on traditional power providers (as a matter of interest, see page 68 for an article on safeguarding solar modules). The solar PV sector is a crucial player in the unfolding energy revolution.

For instance, in South Africa, where the coal-fired power industry empowers a large unskilled and semi-skilled workforce with a regular income, the job loss threat is tangible as unions embark on endeavours to protect the coal industry.

In another example, Nigeria’s newly inaugurated 2.8MW FUNAI solar hybrid power project under the country’s Energising Education Programme (see the image on page 14) is set to provide a clean, sustainable energy supply.

However, the project has raised concern around how the growth of solar PV development will eventually slow the market for providers of diesel gensets – a primary industry in Nigeria for the last 40 years.

I hope that WEFA will have deliberated on these issues and look to how the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) can create new opportunities for job seekers and entrepreneurs (the job providers of our countries).

Admittedly, the innovations arising from the 4IR transition are also a threat, demanding attention from sectors that have stood the test of time – the electricity distribution market’s ohms, amperes and volts have remained unchanged since Thomas Edison’s time (read more on this from David Birungi on page 40).

These three electricity elements are unlikely to change, but then again I’d not envisioned trading in a virtual currency until recently. Nor did I imagine the threat of cybersecurity to our power stations, which if perpetrated successfully, can bring a city, country or whole region to its knees. As such, the stakes are high for WEFA to deliver concrete messaging around these topics.

I trust that the private and public sector leaders gathered at this year’s WEFA will find consensus and deliver some solutions to:

1) creating employment opportunities,
2) managing the impact of climate change on Africa,
3) positioning Africa on the global Internet of Everything platform, and
4) leveraging the new Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement to drive regional integration.

In the meantime, I invite you to read the articles in this edition of ESI Africa to empower your knowledge and expedite your solutions. ESI

Until the next edition.
Nicolette

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