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Economic transformation in the fourth industrial revolution: insights from African manufacturing and guidance for policymakers

Research reports

Written by Max Walter, Chema Triki, Guendalina Anzolin, Dirk Willem te Velde, Prachi Agarwal, Yohannes Ayele

Image credit:Industrial valve manufacturing and assembly factory facility, Johannesburg, South Africa. Image license:Shutterstock/Sunshine Seeds

In the coming years and decades, African governments must navigate the challenge of driving job-rich economic transformation in the context of disruptive global technological change. Recent and ongoing technological breakthroughs are heralding a fourth industrial revolution (4IR). The 4IR refers to “the marriage of physical assets and advanced digital technologies [...] that communicate, analyse, and act upon information, enabling organisations, consumers, and society to be more flexible and responsive and make more intelligent data-driven decisions” (Deloitte, 2020).

This report examines the challenges and opportunities for driving economic transformation and job creation in Africa amid the disruptive changes of the 4IR. Through a literature review and case studies of manufacturing firms in South Africa, Kenya, and Ghana, this report aims to provide policymakers with frameworks and insights for successfully navigating technological disruption. It finds that while 4IR technologies threaten low-skilled manufacturing jobs, they also enable productivity gains and customisation if policies support skills development and investment. The report recommends smart industrial strategies tailored to each country's context that take advantage of new opportunities in sectors like automotive, textiles, and food and beverage processing while ensuring inclusion of workers.

  • Economic Transformation in the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Insights From African Manufacturing and Guidance for Policymakers

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