UNIDO and partners explore the opportunities of Industry 4.0 in South Africa and beyond

JOHANNESBURG, 22 February 2018 – The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has hosted a public dialogue on Industry 4.0 attended by over 100 delegates at the 2018 Africa Energy Indaba in Johannesburg. The topic was introduced by a panel consisting of senior representatives from key South African government departments, the private sector, and the South African Development Community (SADC).

Gerhard Fourie, Chief Director, Green Industries, Department of Trade and Industry, Janitha Badul, Senior Policy Advisor: Greening Programmes and Fund, Department of Environmental Affairs, Joseph Senona, Director: Africa Relations, Department of Science and Technology, Mauritz Lindeque, Biogas Industry Association, and Kuda Ndhlukula, Head: SADC Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (SACREEE) were on the panel. UNIDO was represented by Khaled El Mekwad, UNIDO Representative and Head of the Regional Office in South Africa, and Valerie Geen, who moderated the discussions.

In welcoming the participants, El Mekwad reiterated that Industry 4.0 has become a major topic on several international platforms, with key industry players increasingly making use of new, smarter and integrated technologies to produce goods and services. He emphasized the need to prepare markets for the upcoming change, and for government to take the lead by raising awareness, putting in place the necessary strategies and regulations, and addressing the issue of education.

The Department of Trade and Industry’s Industrial Policy Framework and opportunities to advance Industry 4.0 were discussed at the workshop, as well as experiences of transitioning to a green economy with Industry 4.0 and the White Paper on Science and Technology to address Industry 4.0. In addition, an overview was given of the role of smart infrastructure in Industry 4.0, and economic opportunities in SADC as identified through SACREEE.

There was broad consensus that the unprecedented change associated with Industry 4.0 would impact all businesses. While it has the potential to be destructive and disruptive, the switch to Industry 4.0 also offers new and exciting opportunities. The importance of inclusivity, system-wide education and adaptive skills development programmes were emphasized, underlining the need for increased awareness-raising of Industry 4.0 in all sectors and at all levels. It was deemed critical not to leave people behind in the wake of the digital transformation of industry and exponential technology changes, especially given the South African context. A special focus on continuous education, re-skilling and upskilling would therefore be needed to ensure that jobs are retained.

In concluding the workshop, UNIDO commended the South African government for its strong ownership and involvement in preparing the country for the impact and benefits of Industry 4.0, and expressed UNIDO’s interest in continued engagement with the government and other stakeholders on the journey forward.

For further information, please contact:

Khaled El Mekwad

UNIDO Representative, 


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