President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers the keynote address during the first day of the 10th BRICS Summit at the Sandton Convention Centre, Joburg, yesterday.Picture: GCIS

JOHANNESBURG - Leaps in technology and innovation present enormous opportunities for growth and could better equip countries to combat disease, hunger and environmental degradation, but could entrench existing disparities unless approached in a collaborative manner, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Thursday.

Ramaphosa told the second day of the July 25-27 10th BRICS summit in Johannesburg that member states should not just adopt new technologies but also combine resources and expertise to become innovators.

"We should not allow technology to shape our societies. We must instead ensure that the needs of our societies shape the technologies that we develop," he told the summit also attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Brazilian President Michel Temer.

He said the rapid adoption of mobile telecommunications in Africa and other parts of the developing world, for example, demonstrated how innovation could ignite sudden bursts of development.

"It demonstrates that, properly harnessed, new technologies can ensure more efficient processes and more reliable systems of service delivery. They can expand economic participation by ensuring that knowledge and information is more broadly disseminated across the population," he said.

But to succeed, countries needed to equip their people with the necessary skills, Ramaphosa said, citing a World Economic Forum report that asserts that the three most important skills for an employee by 2020 will be complex problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity.

"Without adequate training, only a few emerging economies will possess these skills in sufficient numbers, while others will see their prospects stifled by automation," said Ramaphosa. "There is a need to develop more agile and applied education models."

Equally important, he said, were policies that supported and stimulated local industries, especially small, medium and micro enterprises, with  BRICS industry ministers having resolved to establish a partnership on the New Industrial Revolution.

"As the BRICS forum, we can neither ignore, nor take for granted, the reality that is the 4th Industrial Revolution and the impact that it will have on the global economy," said Ramaphosa.

African News Agency (ANA)