The South African affiliate centre of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR) will address key issues of technology governance, Dr Phil Mjwara, Director-General of the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town on Thursday.


Taking place from 4 to 6 September under the theme "Shaping inclusive growth and shared futures in the Fourth Industrial Revolution," the 28th World Economic Forum on Africa has attracted over 1 000 regional and global leaders from government, business, civil society and academia.


Discussions under way at the Cape Town International Convention Centre are focusing, among others, on ways of accelerating socio-economic progress and addressing the African Union's Agenda 2063 priorities in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.


A number of side-events are taking place in and around the city. During one such event, hosted by Brand South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa called on investors to join in the new momentum and look south. The President, who is leading the South African delegation at WEF Africa 2019, said South Africa was a fertile ground for new investment, adding that the country was addressing constraints to growth.


"Investing in South Africa is not just about securing decent returns," the President said. "It is also about staking a claim in the future of a great nation that has the means and the drive to become one of the world's most vibrant economies. An economy that is fertile ground for companies and businesses who are prepared to invest in human capital to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution."


Dr Mjwara, meanwhile, was speaking at a breakfast panel discussion hosted by another WEF Africa participant, Absa Bank, under the theme "Africa in the digital age: Pathways to inclusive growth". The discussion here revolved around the environment needed to enable the continent's people to participate fully in the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.


The Director-General said that the necessary policies and regulations had to be put in place to create such an enabling environment. South Africa would not realise the full benefits of new technologies such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things unless it had the appropriate policies and regulations in place.


The South African C4IR Affiliate Centre would address precisely such issues, Dr Mjwara said. The centre, which is expected to be launched this year, will be hosted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), an entity of the DSI.


The Director-General added that the government was dealing with the issue of broadband and spectrum, as the country further develops its cyberinfrastructure. He also raised issues around the implications of human genetics and genomics research, and noted that the DSI was advising other departments on the policies required for the new technological age.


Also on the panel, Brian Armstrong, Chair of Digital Business at Wits Business School, said the new technologies made the rapid modernisation and diversification of economies possible, and that Africa should benefit from this.


While advances in manufacturing and agriculture might not include intensive use of labour, they would lead to increased production and greater access to markets, Armstrong said. He cited the example of Rwandan coffee farmers who were already benefitting from e-commerce retail platforms.


The panelists were unanimous in calling for increased capacity building initiatives to unlock the huge talent pool that exists on the continent, so as to produce the skills required to ensure that Africa thrives in the new technological age.