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The African continent could proactively embrace the Fifth Industrial Revolution (5IR) and drive its adoption, says Aggreko's engineering head.
To do so, however, requires investment in a combination of skills and technology as new job opportunities emerge. Speaking at the AEF Digital Energy Festival, Samuel Tumma, head of engineering at Aggreko Africa, said that while 5IR is not mainstream yet, there are already visible signs of emerging on the continent.
"Developing the rights skills on the continent will be critical to achieving 5IR success,” he says. “Where the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) looks at technology driving efficiencies and almost eliminates the human element in certain areas of business, 5IR looks at reintroducing the human element to focus more on creating purpose for organisations. It recognises the need for that human touch, particularly in Artificial Intelligence (AI) to address the societal issue around key technologies that it encompasses.”
Tumma believes that priorities need to be developed at a country level and that governments must then ensure that universities are on board and developing the right courses to prepare students for the new jobs that will emerge as a result of 5IR. "Developing the right skills will play a critical role in realising the promise of 5IR – a promise of technological advancement along with organisational purpose,” he says. “Aggreko works closely with The Institution of Engineering and Technology around engineering skills development to ensure that we meet the requirements of tomorrow with the right skills today. We also have several initiatives aimed at increasing the number of female engineers, to ensure that we have the right mix of male to female engineers.”
He emphasises that while 5IR will have to be adopted globally, Africa is in a unique position to drive this shift. “As Aggreko, we believe that a reliable and competitive organisation must be driven at a local level to effectively overcome local challenges. We are currently building our strategy for the next ten years, and are focusing on digitalisation, remote control, and monitoring and upskilling the resources we have in the business to ensure that we can embrace 5IR. Another priority for us is carbon footprint reduction. We know that we have to embrace all of these priorities, including continuously adapting the capabilities of our people to drive the business and support our clients.”
“If the global Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is to focus on using technology to deliver solutions to clients even when you cannot do it face-to-face,” continued Tumma. “One of our core pillars within the organisation centres around innovation and pushing the boundaries of that innovation. If you look at 5IR globally, all sectors have a long way to go before they completely embrace it. What is important now is to look at technology investment to ensure that we continue to lead the future market needs for this strategy.”