UNIDO utilized the 11th Africa Energy Indaba held in Johannesburg on 19 and 20 February 2019 as a platform to continue the dialogue on Industry 4.0, and also participated in the launch of the 2018 SADC Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency status report at the event.

Industry 4.0 panel discussion

Three well-known experts participated in the panel discussion on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), namely Prof. Roula Inglesi-Lotz, Associate Professor, Department of Economics, University of Pretoria and President of the SA Association for Energy Economics; Mr. Weza Moss, automotive industry expert and Chairman of the Board of the Automotive Industry Development Centre (AIDC); and Ms. Lauren Hermanus, Sustainable Development Practitioner at Adapt and Research Associate at the University of Cape Town.

In welcoming the guests to the panel discussion, UNIDO Representative and Head of South Africa Regional Office Mr. Khaled El Mekwad pointed out that the FIR was increasingly getting attention from all players in South Africa. It was one of the priority topics of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s discussions with stakeholders at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2019, and was also mentioned in the recent State of the Nation address (SONA) when the President warned that the country had ”a choice between being overtaken by technological change, or harnessing it to serve our development aspirations.”  During the SONA, the President reiterated the establishment of a presidential commission to oversee the development of South Africa’s response to the 4IR at a national level.

UNIDO was engaging with the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) and other stakeholders on assisting in structuring interventions on the FIR based on its expertise, experience and lessons learnt from other countries. Mr. El Mekwad also mentioned that two UNIDO position papers – one on digitising mini grids, and the other on artificial intelligence and clean industries – would be released during the course of 2019 to enable countries to enhance their responses to national priorities by applying the principles of the 4IR in the relevant areas.

Mr. Khaled El Mekwad, UNIDO.

Prof. Inglesi-Lotz addressed the role of universities in preparing the youth for the 4IR. She emphasised that, in addition to technical skills, universities also need to equip students with soft skills, including the ability to work in teams. Other crucial skills include critical thinking, adaptability and ethics. A study undertaken in 2017 found that the youth regarded creativity, the introduction of systems thinking concepts into all curricula, and entrepreneurship as critical to prepare them for the future.

She also emphasised the importance of government, academia and industry working together to prepare the youth for the new reality.  A current example is an initiative between Telkom and the Universities of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and Fort Hare focusing on how SA should respond to the 4IR. Finally, Prof. Inglesi-Lotz stressed that life-long learning was crucial for adapting to the ‘technology tsunami’ that we are facing.

Prof. Roula Inglesi-Lotz, University of Pretoria; Mr. Weza Moss, AIDC; and Ms. Lauren Hermanus, Adapt.

Mr. Moss shared his views on the impact of the 4IR on the automotive sector, and the role of the AIDC and other stakeholders in preparing for this. He emphasised the importance of demystifying the concept of the FIR and changing the perception that it is a technical issue, and accepting it as a way of life, starting at home and in communities. He addressed the need to revolutionise the education system change the negative connotations attached to Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges. Industry needs to invest in TVET colleges and assist in the development of curricula to deliver to the future employees it requires. The youth and unemployed should be provided with upskilling opportunities through academies such as the one established at the Couga Industrial Development Zone, a collaborative effort between the AIDC, the dti and Volkswagen.

Mr. Moss also addressed issues of transformation, deepening of the automotive industry supply chain, and ways to allay the fears of the labour movement about the implications of the FIR for its members in the industry.

Ms. Hermanus touched on the drivers, benefits and risks of digital innovation for the power sector, as well as the requirements to succeed in this new world.  She also discussed the concepts of smart policy, smart institutions and smart governance. She concluded with the following: ‘To embrace this digital revolution together with the energy transition, what I think policy and institutional development needs is an aesthetic sensibility, or a creative, adaptive approach, policy that understands that it is part knowledge-making, part art, part ethics. Policy that can work not only with what has been, but what is yet to come, the “known unknowns” and the “unknown unknowns”. This must be embedded in democracy, as ongoing engagement and collaboration to reach a dynamic political consensus.’

If we are successful, this digital revolution, like the industrial revolutions before it, promises jobs, increased livings standards, health for more people.’ Lauren Hermanus, Adapt.

Official launch of the 2018 SADC Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Status Report

The 2018 SADC Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Status Report was launched by the Deputy Minister of Mines and Energy of Namibia, Ms. Kornelia Shilunga, at a special side event at the Africa Energy Indaba on 20 February 2019.

Ms. Kornelia Shilunga, Deputy Minister of Mines and Energy, Namibia.

The proceedings were opened by Mr. Khaled El Mekwad, UNIDO Representative and Head of South Africa Regional Office. He referred to the long-standing partnership between UNIDO and SADC, and said that the 2018 Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency status report was an excellent example of this continuous solidifying partnership. The understanding of the SADC region’s emerging renewable energy industry, market development and growth was critical to realising the region’s potential and to scaling up investment opportunities. He emphasised that, as a regional centre, SACREEE was in a unique position to accelerate the energy and climate transformation in SADC by creating economies of scales, equal progress and spill-over effects between countries. Through cross-border approaches and methodologies, national efforts can be complemented and accelerated in the areas of policy and regulation, capacity development, knowledge and data management, awareness raising, as well as in the promotion of investment, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Mr. Kuda Ndhlukula, Executive Director of SACREEE, explained that the peer-reviewed report aims to showcase status of renewable energy and energy efficiency policy patterns and investment opportunities within the SADC region. Building on the 2015 status report, it also highlights opportunities, provides perspectives and lists a pipeline of projects and investment needs identified in the region.

Mr. Kuda Ndhlukula, SACREEE

In her address, Deputy Minister Shilunga referred to the mandate of SACREEE, namely to represent and communicate the common position and needs of SADC member states on issues of renewable energy and energy efficiency at international level, thereby providing a basis for engagement. She encouraged all stakeholders to make use of the study and take advantage of opportunities, gaps and overlaps in the SADC renewable energy and energy efficiency space highlighted in the report to develop a conducive environment to increase the uptake of clean energy, which was critical for improving energy access and security of energy supply.