On 18 August, the German & EU Chamber’s Working Group Industry 4.0 hosted the first in a series of online events around 4IR and its adoption in South Africa. Under the leadership of moderator Frank Aletter, deputy CEO at the Southern African German Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Southern Africa, the event provided an overview of the report of the Presidential Advisory Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (PC4IR), delivered to President Cyril Ramaphosa on 6 August.
Tim Abbott, the German Chamber’s newly elected president and CEO of the BMW Group South Africa, opened the presentations with a welcome to delegates and an overview of how BMW is using the technologies of 4IR to achieve its efficiency objectives and incorporating features such as autonomous driving technology into its vehicles.
Following the opening address and speaking in his capacity as deputy chair of the Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the University of Johannesburg’s vice chancellor, Professor Tshilidzi Marwala, delivered the keynote presentation on the recommendations of the report.
Marwala outlined how South Africa could not remain competitive in global markets unless it invested in the new technologies of the 4IR: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and 5G served as examples. As a guide to the key focus areas, Marwala summarised the recommendations of the PC4IR as follows:
• Invest in human capital.
• Establish an AI institute.
• Establish a platform for advanced manufacturing and new materials.
• Secure and avail data to enable innovation.
• Incentivise future industries, platforms and applications of 4IR technologies.
• Build 4IR infrastructure.
• Review and amend (or create) policy and legislation.
• Establish a 4IR Strategy Implementation Coordination Council in the Presidency.
In closure, Marwala stressed that the Strategy Implementation Coordination Council must be made up of experts in the fields of 4IR technology and, above all, that the ethos of the recommendations demands that the role of the private sector must be elevated beyond the levels which are presently considered normal in South Africa.
The final presentation, given by Marc Van Pelt, MD of Pepperl+Fuchs in South Africa, and chairperson of the German & EU Chamber’s Working Group Industry 4.0, outlined the primary roles of the working group as follows:
• Advocate on behalf of its members for policy clarity, certainty and changes that will strengthen the business climate in South Africa.
• Raise impediments to expanded trade and investment between the EU and South Africa with the appropriate stakeholders.
• Contribute to the process of identifying appropriate and mutually beneficial solutions.
Van Pelt explained the importance of aligning these objectives with those of the 4IR Strategy Implementation Coordination Council, once it has been formed. Currently, the EU Chamber is transitioning into a Chamber of Chambers in order to consolidate knowledge, which requires a redefinition of strategy and mandate of the current working groups. Van Pelt concluded with an explanation to delegates of a proposal to transfer the existing Working Group Industry 4.0 to the Working Group 4IR, in line with global trends. The idea is to foster close interaction between the experts on the Presidency’s 4IR Strategy Implementation Coordination Council and those on the German & EU Chamber’s Working Group 4IR, in the interests of knowledge transfer and future business development.
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