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‘South Africans mustn’t fear losing jobs to robots’

by SAVIOUS KWINIKA
JOHANNESBURG – A TECHNOLOGY executive has allayed fears the advent of digitalisation would worsen rampant unemployment in South Africa.

Instead, technology will drive new jobs in Africa’s most diversified economy, according to Greg Newton, country manager at Blue Prism.

His sentiments come as South Africa’s unemployment rates in the first quarter of 2021 hit a record high of 32,6 percent. The rate is at 46,3 percent among people aged 15 to 34 years old.

Unemployment is blamed for the restlessness besetting the country. Tempers flared in July as some shopping malls were looted and infrastructure vandalised, leaving over 300 people dead.

“And with the word digital automation going around, people are easily triggered, because no one wants to lose their jobs to a robot,” Newton said.

He said when counterpointed with South Africa’s latest unemployment figures and sluggish gross domestic product (GDP), it was expected for people to have concerns over the impact of digitalisation on job availability.

“But the fact of the matter is, digitalisation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) will create more jobs than are displaced,” Newton said.

He said the challenge, for government, the technology industry, business at large and citizens alike, was how to approach this transition with “eyes wide open” to maximise the opportunities for many job seekers.

According to a McKinsey report, “The Future of Work in South Africa”, digitalisation could result in a net gain of more than 1 million jobs in the country by 2030.

Further, technology adoption could triple South Africa’s productivity growth, double per capita income growth, and add more than a percentage to the real GDP in the next ten years, the report projected.

Newton reiterated that inevitably digitalisation will both displace and create jobs, with the net effect being an increase in employment.

“But it’s up to governments, the tech industry, business, entrepreneurs and citizens to ensure these vacancies can be filled with people with the right skills,” he said nonetheless.

The Blue Prism Group is a United Kingdom-headquartered multinational software corporation specialising in enterprise robotic process automation.

– CAJ News

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