Nisaar Mahomed, Megan Ngiba, Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs MEC Sihle Zikalala and Alex Granger addressed business leaders on the impact of the fourth industrial revolution on small businesses, in Durban last week. Supplied
DURBAN - Connectedness is vital for the survival of small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs), Alex Granger, global speaker and co-founder of human capital consultants, Twice Blue, told provincial government leaders and delegates at the fourth industrial revolution business breakfast dialogue hosted by Ithala in Durban recently.

“Wi-fi should be a human right. There should not be this password protection. It should be free. We must be able to get into a bus and wi-fi must work, walk in the streets of Durban and wi-fi must work. That connectedness is critical, but it means that government leaders have to be forward thinking, discern what is coming and be willing to take the risk,” he said.

Quoting the World Economic Forum’s 2018 outlook for jobs, Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs MEC Sihle Zikalala said it was vital that businesses should pay attention to re-skilling and up-skilling their workforces for the fourth industrial revolution.

He said that it would bring success and reduce conflict such as that already witnessed between meter taxis and Uber, and it was crucial to prepare SMMEs to embrace technology.

Ithala was grappling with the implications of the fourth industrial revolution as it related to its position as a loan operator, a major player in the commercial property sector as well as how the organisation would remain relevant in providing broader banking services, said Pearl Bengu, Ithala Development Finance Corporation’s group chief executive.

Megan Ngiba, the chief executive of Makhophila Training Academy, which specialises in skills development, said there was a real fear that robots were going to be taking over jobs.

“I am here to ask for a discussion around clear definitions in layman’s terms when defining the fourth industrial revolution, which we can use for training.”

Ngiba emphasised that SMME’s wanted to be players in the new economy and asked the government to include them in policy development that related to them.

She also asked government to help reduce the cost of data.

“Data is very expensive,” she said.

Nisaar Mohammed, a Sector Specialist - Knowledge Economy at Trade and Investment KwaZulu-Natal, said it was a myth that the state and government did not get involved in funding fourth industrial revolution developments.

“Development Finance Institutions should not underestimate their role in the funding of SMMEs in the fourth industrial revolution,” he said.

There was a very strong possibility that Africa could benefit from the fourth industrial revolution primarily on the back of SMMEs, because these were driven by the youth who had agile minds and would begin to use and understand the technology and its language, he said.