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AFRICA: Up to 52% of work in Africa susceptible to automation

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The research indicates that one in three jobs in South Africa (5.7 million jobs) is currently at risk of total automation.

S. Africa Says Automation May Swipe 35% of Jobs

JOHANNESBURG (FINANCIAL TRIBUNE) – Reworking the Revolution research estimates that investing in AI and human-machine collaboration could collectively lift profits by $4.8 trillion globally

The impact of digital technologies on jobs and economies is an important topic for South Africa as new local research indicates that more than a third of jobs in this country may be automated.

An Accenture report, “Reworking the Revolution: Are you ready to compete as intelligent technology meets human ingenuity to create the future workforce?”, indicates that by investing in intelligent technologies and human-machine collaboration, businesses could boost revenues by 38% by 2022 and raise employment levels by 10%. ITonline reported.

The research indicates that one in three jobs in South Africa (5.7 million jobs) is currently at risk of total automation.

Reworking the Revolution research estimates that investing in AI and human-machine collaboration could collectively lift profits by $4.8 trillion globally. For the average S&P500 company, this equates to $7.5 billion of revenues and a $880 million lift to profitability. South Africa has much to gain.

Roze Phillips, MD of Accenture Consulting in Africa, says: “Digital is a growth multiplier. Digital technologies are ushering in a new economic era by overcoming the physical limitations of capital and labor, exposing new sources of value and growth, increasing efficiency and driving competitiveness.

“However, for countries like South Africa that are less prepared for human-machine collaboration, digital technologies may bring more job losses than gains.”

The 35% of jobs at risk of automation that Accenture’s research identifies is high compared with more digitally advanced countries such as Germany (24%), and second only to Brazil (46%) in this study. With a fragile economy and growing unemployment, especially youth unemployment, further job losses in South Africa could have a crippling effect.

Impact of Economy

Job losses will impact not just individuals and their families, they will impact the economy as well. “Workers are also customers,” Phillips explains. “Without an income, they have little to no purchasing power to drive demand for utilities and the products and services of government and the private sector. This can bring economic growth to a standstill. This makes creating jobs and ensuring technological competitiveness vital for South Africa.

“The challenge for businesses, and for South Africa, is to move from merely applying digital technologies to improve efficiencies—realizing the full promise of digital technologies and truly boosting economic growth depends on humans and machines working together to develop differentiated customer experiences, and create new products and services for new markets.”

Accenture’s research shows that at its current rate of learning, South Africa will shift to “running-with-the-machine” activities (those that require more human-like skills) slower than other developed countries.

To understand the risk, Accenture developed an econometric model using labor data from Statistics South Africa and identified the share of job activities in each category that can be automated.

Jobs at Risk

For South Africa, initial findings show that 35% of all jobs in South Africa are currently at risk of total automation, meaning machines can perform 75% of the activities that make up these jobs. Both blue and white-collar jobs are at risk.

The jobs of clerks, cashiers, tellers, construction-, mining- and maintenance workers all fall into this category. Hard-to-automate jobs (those with less than 25 risk of automation) include tasks like influencing people, teaching people and programming, real-time discussions, advising people, negotiating and cooperating with coworkers.

By 2025, jobs at risk in South Africa will reduce to 20% as workforces evolve with new digital demands across occupations.

There is good news, too. The research indicates that if South Africa can double the pace at which its workforce acquires skills relevant for human-machine collaboration, it can reduce the number of jobs at risk from 20% (3.5 million jobs) in 2025 to just 14% (2.5 million).

“South Africa cannot hesitate — it must start now. To succeed, leaders must act swiftly to re-imagine work, pivot the workforce and scale up ‘new skilling’”, says Phillips.

Accenture’s report, New Skills Now! Creating South Africa’s Future Workforce, identifies the new skills needed to unlock advantages in the digital economy, as well as the actions needed by South African leaders across business, government and industry to shape and prepare the workforce to ‘run with the machine’.

Siemens creates opportunities for digitalization skills development across Africa

44% of all work activities in Ethiopia are susceptible to automation, as are 46% in Nigeria, 52% in Kenya and 41% in South Africa

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (APO PRESS RELEASE), March 27, 2018/ — The Internet of Things (IoT) is set to revolutionize the job market and African industry must adapt to survive
Siemens aims to help accelerate digitalization skills and empower those who will be leading the change.

State-of-the-art automation equipment donated to engineering faculties in five African markets
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is having a disruptive effect on economies and the development of digital skills is vital. There is an opportunity, especially in Africa, to embrace new and exponential technologies combined with human talent to accelerate industrialization and drive economic growth.According to The Future of Jobs and Skills in Africa Report (, release by the World Economic Forum (WEF), it is predicted that 44% of all work activities in Ethiopia are susceptible to automation, as are 46% in Nigeria, 52% in Kenya and 41% in South Africa.

With this in mind, Siemens ( is handing over equipment specifically related to industrial automation that enables integrated engineering to 13 engineering faculties at universities in Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa. This is part of the company’s commitment to sustainable skills development across the continent. The value of the equipment is close to $400 000.

Data collected by WEF ( in key African markets shows employers across the region identify inadequately skilled workforces as a major constraint to their businesses, including 41% of all firms in Tanzania, 30% in Kenya, 9% in South Africa and 6% in Nigeria. This pattern may get worse in the future. In South Africa alone, 39% of core skills required across occupations will be wholly different by 2020.

“The uneven development of the past can only be overcome with locally engineered solutions,” says Sabine Dall’Omo, CEO of Siemens Southern and Eastern Africa. “In an African context, disruptive technology can be seen as an opportunity to leapfrog into the best and most advanced technologies, but this is only possible with access to the right training and equipment.”

Siemens will continue its commitment to Africa and offer long-term support to beneficiaries by ensuring that students are able to train on the most advanced technology available. This will ensure graduates, and therefore the emerging workforce, have the skills necessary to effectively lead large-scale digitalization across the continent, resulting in long-term benefits to economic growth.

Siemens firmly believes the best way for African markets to benefit from the digital revolution is to combine skills training and improved / new infrastructure.

Says Dall’Omo; “Convergence of man and machine intelligence will enable a new era of speed, flexibility, efficiency and connectivity in the 21st century. The conversation about man vs machine is not an either-or scenario. Ongoing education and training has a positive effect for both business and society. A strong pipeline of talent with the relevant skills and knowledge is beneficial to governments and businesses, while young people advance into jobs and careers with increased economic opportunity if they have the right skills.”

Factory automation and electrical engineering equipment donations have been made to the following institutions:

Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana
Dar-Es-Salaam Institute of Technology, Tanzania
Dedan Kimathi University of Technology (DeKUT), Kenya
And nine Universities and Colleges across South Africa
“Our commitment to skills development and our relationships with these institutions goes beyond just this donation,” adds Dall’Omo. “We invest for the long-term and believe that by playing an active role in skills development, locally engineered solutions could catalyze the re-industrialization of the economy and trigger growth on an unprecedented scale.”

The company has a unique understanding of the challenges faced across the African continent, and has proved to be a reliable partner from grassroots level, right through to corporate and government level.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Siemens AG.

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Contact for journalists
Keshin Govender
Head of Corporate Communications

Siemens, Southern and Eastern Africa
Phone: +27 654 2412; E-mail:
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