It is no longer news that the 4th industrial revolution is upon us.
The era where robotics, nanotechnology, cloud computing, 3-D printing, artificial intelligence and internet of things dominates every aspect of the human society is by the corner.
Unfortunately, a lot of people most especially entrepreneurs in Africa are not planning for this momentous technological takeover.
Whereas in the West and other advanced parts of the world, entrepreneurs are strategically positioning their businesses to optimally benefit from the gains of the 4th industrial revolution, in Africa, most entrepreneurs are yet to recognize the reality that this revolution is bringing to the marketplace and are therefore not planning for it.
With the 4th industrial revolution, production efficiency and business process optimization would be so high that global competitiveness will demand strategic actions and very determined effort.
How are African Businesses and Entrepreneurs preparing for the 4th industrial revolution?
Sadly, many African businesses are grossly ill-prepared for the ensuing revolution for many reasons.
Prominent among these is the huge infrastructure deficit in Africa.
As we know, just like the third industrial revolution, the fourth industrial revolution requires critical infrastructure to thrive. Only that, this time, it requires more sophisticated infrastructure.
Therefore, the absence of such infrastructure as evident in Africa could be an impossible clog in the wheel of progress towards the 4th industrial revolution.
Just take a look at it. Considering how erratic and unreliable electricity supply in Africa is, how can you possibly be competitive in an industrial revolution that takes access to reliable electricity for granted?
In Africa, over 630 million people, that’s over 50% of Africans lack access to electricity.
How then can we build infrastructures that would support the 4th industrial revolution?
What about access to broadband internet services?
Africa as of today remains the continent with the poorest broadband penetration. In fact, broadband internet coverage in Africa is less than 30%. How then can we be competitive in an era that relies almost totally on the internet of things?
We are fast moving into an era where digital would take over everything from lifestyles to business processes.
As entrepreneurs therefore, we must recognize this reality and plan adequately on how we would transit into this era.
Take for instance, given the fact that automation would take away all the routine functions in businesses, we must plan and reform our hiring policies with the understanding that all the routine functions in the business might be soon taken over by machines.
For entrepreneurs in the service industry most especially those that are rendering services to foreign clients, diversification is utterly important. This is because, their services might soon be taken over by machines.
Businesses in the service industry should therefore focus more on service functions that can’t be overtaken by machines, at least not in the nearest future.
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How can African Businesses Leverage the Opportunities offered by the 4th industrial revolution?
First, African businesses must understand that the 4th industrial revolution is here.
They should equip their staff with right skills that will allow them adapt the features of this revolution to their businesses.
With the digital future approaching, African businesses should develop innovative products around artificial intelligence, internet of things, nanotechnology, 3-D printing, robotics etc.
This will ensure that they remain relevant in the ensuing revolution.
The absence of broadband internet access in most of Africa represents a tremendous opportunity for businesses.
If you take a look at the penetration of mobile phones in Africa over the last decade, it’s been nothing other than impressive.
That shows how strategic and potentially profitable developing businesses around last mile broadband infrastructure provision can be.
If you consider too the lack of reliable electricity which is needed to support broadband internet connectivity, that represents huge a opportunity for businesses involved in micro grid power generation and distribution.
Even with the absence of grid electricity supply, businesses must get innovative about their technological solutions. This way they can leapfrog the huge infrastructure barrier which is not likely to disappear anytime soon.
Just take a look at what wifi.com.ng is doing in Nigeria. The business deploys last mile broadband internet infrastructure and is connecting lots of homes and businesses to broadband internet. Impressively, this is done without any carbon footprint as the electricity used to power these systems are completely solar.
Businesses must be innovative enough to leapfrog the huge infrastructure deficit in Africa into the 4th industrial revolution.
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We must be Innovative
Innovation and creativity will be the clear divider between who enjoys the 4th industrial revolution and who gets left behind.
Already, while 5G network is being tested in some advanced countries, many communities in Africa are still yet to enjoy 3G connectivity.
Businesses must ensure that they have well trained human capital that would enable them compete favourably in the era of the 4th industrial revolution.
The future of everything, including entrepreneurship is digital. Soon, Agripreneurs will be using robotics to carry out operations on the farms.
Security services will be completely based on internet of things.
Financial services would have been completely taken over by artificial intelligence.
Even the retail industry, manufacturing, transportation etc. will soon be run by artificial intelligence, 3-D printing, cloud computing and internet of things.
Nanotechnology will take over medicine, research and forensics.
In fact, almost every aspect of human endeavor has a replacement.
Entrepreneurs in Africa must recognize this and ensure that when it happens, they are not left behind the same way they were in the second and third industrial revolutions.
The time to act is now.
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