Job creation, technology must go together

IDC chief executive Geoffrey Qhena. File picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi

IDC chief executive Geoffrey Qhena. File picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi

Published May 12, 2016

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Kigali - Embracing technology should not be at the expense of much-needed employment, Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) chief executive Geoffrey Qhena said at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Kigali, Rwanda, yesterday.

Qhena said African countries should pursue technological advancement alongside efforts to create jobs.

“We should look at both (job creation and technological advancement). Unemployment is still very high. As we embrace technology, we must also ensure that unemployment is addressed,” he said.

This year’s conference is aimed at looking at how African countries can capitalise on the so-called digital revolution to achieve economic growth. Speaking at a panel on production and manufacturing, Qhena said before approving funding for projects, the IDC looked at the respective projects’ sustainability and ability to create jobs.

Statistics SA on Monday said South Africa’s unemployment had risen to 26.7 percent in the first quarter of this year.

Qhena said African countries knew what needed to be done to grow. “We have spoken about the need to invest in infrastructure. Let us implement what we know,” he said, adding that the recent economic slowdown in China should be a wake-up call for African countries that have come to rely on exports to China.

Entrepreneur Ally Angula said her Namibian clothing company had been on the receiving end of a lack of investment in energy infrastructure. Angula said her plant in a Namibian village went for three weeks without power after recent heavy rains.

Angula said some African economies were moving away from natural resources into services-orientated sectors and these required scarce skills.

She said African countries had to be deliberate about job creation “and not split ourselves in so many ways. There needs to be a sense of urgency. It comes down to implementation. We are good at creating policies.”

Also speaking at the panel, Johan Aurik, the chairman of global management consulting firm AT Kearney, said African countries needed to address factors such as skills development, lack of innovation and infrastructure shortcomings.

“It is easy to say these things. But it will take a very long time (to address these). Solving these problems is like solving a very complex system. Every country faces these challenges… We are talking about a value chain. It is a multi-stakeholder game to solve a complex problem,” Aurik said.

He said while the US and Europe had more than 200 years to develop economically, Africa had to achieve the same quicker. Pointing at China’s relatively quicker economic development, he said the continent could achieve the feat.

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