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Wednesday 16 January 2019
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Harambee and the fourth industrial revolution

As political and business leaders converged in Davos, Switzerland over the course of last week to engage and create new partnerships to shape global, regional and industry agendas, most of the discussions at the World Economic Forum were centered around the fourth industrial revolution which is characterized by the fusion of digital technologies that will fundamentally change how we live, work and relate to each other.
 
This article discusses and highlights the correlations between Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP) and fourth industrial revolution. Additionally, recommendations and suggestions are made that can help the HPP achieve the desired outcome, at the same time ensure that Namibia is in line with the global developmental agenda.
 
Professor Klaus Schwab best describes the fourth industrial revolution by drawing distinctions between the fourth industrial revolution with the three industrial revolutions that preceded it. According to Schwab “The First Industrial Revolution used steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres”.
 
The next industrial revolution will be driven by artificial intelligence (AI). Deep neural networks will continue to revolutionise different aspects of our lives, automating our lives smartly. Moreover, machine learning will also present unique tools to overcome deadly diseases such as cancer and other deadly medical conditions.
 
The fourth industrial revolution is not just a continuation of the third but a new one; there are three reasons why it’s regarded as a new, distinct revolution. Firstly, innovation breakthroughs are happening at the speed that has never been seen before in human history. Secondly, when compared to earlier industrial revolutions, the fourth revolution is rapidly changing at an exponential rate. Additionally, the fourth industrial revolution is characterised with disrupting technologies affecting all industries in every country.
Though, the fourth industrial revolution is envisaged to bring about positive impact and a lot of new opportunities. It is expected lead to a loss of jobs in traditional sectors such as manufacturing and agriculture. Moreover, it will also require governments to uphold higher standards of governance, moral and intellectual integrity.
On the other hand the Harambee Prosperity Plan, a targeted short-term action plan to accelerate development in Namibia. Though the plan has noble initiatives, aimed at solving real problems and challenges facing our people. Like the other plans and national development plans, the HPP is bound to fail due to the following reasons; 1) The plan is not in line with global trends, therefore it will not drive growth and neither will transform the Namibian economy from extractive-based economy into knowledge based economy. 2) Secondly, Harambee Prosperity Plan is based on populist chants and rhetoric to appease the poor but not concrete plans to create jobs and reduce inequalities in Namibia.
 
It’s delusional to think that creating food banks will eradicate poverty, but instead it will create a dependency syndrome. Poverty can only be eradicated through real empowerment schemes that will make the forgotten men and women become masters of their own destinies. An example of a scheme that can help end poverty is ensuring that quality and decolonised higher education is available to every Namibian citizen for free. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use change the world”. Proponents of food bank will counter this quote with remarks such as “one cannot learn on a hungry stomach”.
 
Though legitimate, there are thousands of initiatives that government can adopt to bring about equality but I am not convinced that the idea of a food bank is one of them. If government was really serious about bridging the social divide and bring about equality, thus ensuring that no one is left behind, government could have taken radical measures to ensure that structural and economic imbalances are removed. Of course, this not a priority because it doesn’t affect those in power but the forgotten men and women in shacks and villages.
It’s clear for everyone to see after a year of implementation, HPP has not yielded the desired results and has not radically transformed the lives of the people it intended to transform. Therefore, it’s crucial for the success of HPP to incorporate aspects of the fourth industrial revolution and look to digital technologies to create new tech entrepreneurs that will in return create jobs for the youth.
 
The fourth industrial revolution is driven by the notion of leveraging digital technologies to enhance decision-making, increase production, providing high-end quality services or products with the least cost and achieve as much performance with less. Though our imaginations cannot be stressed enough to measure the impact and what will come with the fourth industrial revolution. One thing that I am certain about is that the fourth industrial revolution will help us move away from jobs that are meaningless to meaningful tasks. This is the underlying concept to a humanised society where no one is left behind.
 
However, this will require us to change our education system, which is ancient and unable to keep up with the exponential rate at which digital technologies are moving. Moreover, we need to ensure that education, especially higher education becomes universally available at no cost. Education is very important in the fourth industrial revolution because as we lose jobs to automation, people should be able learn new skills that can help them venture into new opportunities.
 
Like the rest of continent, the future of Namibia depends on its young scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs. From urbanisation to development, climate change to pandemics, Namibia needs science, technology and innovation (STI) in order to secure a sustainable and prosperous future. Namibia needs to invest more in talented researchers, innovators and build capacity to enable Namibians to solve their own problems. This should have been the focus of HPP. Additionally, HPP should have focused on supporting more small businesses especially in the area of ICT.
In conclusion, the fourth industrial revolution present unique opportunities for small countries like Namibia to leverage on digital technologies enabling them to compete with big nations. And Namibia should not be left behind.
 
*Lameck Mbangula Amugongo is country Ambassador of 1 Billion Africa in Namibia. He holds B.IT: Software Engineering, B.Hons: Software Development (Cum Laude) and currently pursuing MSc.Computer Science



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