Ramaphosa’s virtual reality

Staff Writer | Jul 06, 2019
In a first for South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa yesterday delivered an address in two places at once – in the flesh in Midrand, and by holographic projection in Rustenburg.

Employing high-tech wizardry to transmit a hologram of the president delivering his keynote address at the 4th Industrial Revolution SA (4IRSA) digital economy summit in Gauteng to the North West was intended to underscore South Africa’s commitment to embracing the technology of the looming future.

The fourth industrial revolution, African News Agency said in its report on the event, ‘is the current global trend in which technologies and trends such as the Internet of Things, robotics, virtual reality and artificial intelligence are changing the way people live and work.’

Last month, Ramaphosa announced a presidential commission on 4IR in his State of the National Address, saying it would ‘serve as a national, overarching advisory mechanism on digital transformation (to) identify and recommend policies, strategies and plans that will position SA as a global competitive player within the digital revolution space’.

Speaking before the president yesterday, Gauteng Premier David Makhura noted that South Africa was ‘moving fast to a future in which 41% of current jobs in South Africa will be rendered obsolete by automation; when 35% of skills that are considered important in today’s workforce will have changed beyond recognition and others would have disappeared completely’.

However, the IRR has long argued that far more compelling that virtual reality are the hard facts of South Africa’s abysmal growth rate, high unemployment rate, low skills base and dismal education performance.

IRR analysts have pointed out that South Africa’s official unemployment rate is a multiple of emerging market norms; less than half of young people have a job; the bulk of the unemployed have not completed matric; only among university-educated professionals does South Africa’s labour market absorption rate begin to compete with emerging market norms; and the historical relationship between job creation and economic growth is unambiguous in suggesting that growth rates in excess of 5% of GDP will need to be maintained for over 20 years if the unemployment rate is to fall to below 10%.

In 2018, South Africa’s real annual economic growth slumped to 0.8%.

The IRR argues that in the face of this unignorable reality, what is needed is for the government ditch dreamy visions of a high-tech tomorrow and focus on real needs by repealing all race-based empowerment legislation (which has failed to reach the poor, and only deterred investment), deregulating the labour market and abandoning minimum wage laws (which price the poor out of jobs), introducing a model of charter schooling (to give parents better options for good education for their children which the failing State system fails to do) and scrapping plans for expropriation without compensation (which is guaranteed to stifle investment).


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