KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY THE HONOURABLE JEFF RADEBE, MP, MINISTER IN THE PRESIDENCY FOR PLANNING, MONITORING AND EVALUATION; AT THE NDP YOUTH AMBASSADOR MASTERCLASS; CISCO SYSTEMS, BRYANSTON
11 JULY 2017
Thank you, Programme Director:
Cisco Managing Director for Southern Africa, Ms Cathy Smith
The Managing Director for Europe and Africa at Duke Corporate Education, Ms Karen Roux
National Planning Commissioner, Ms Tessa Dooms
The CFO of the NYDA, Mr Waseem Carrim
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is such a delight for me to address this gathering, following the Cisco Conference held in Sun City in March this year. On that occasion, I made an appeal to Cisco and the ICT industry to join hands with government and other social partners to use the ICT sector to tackle the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. Today, that appeal is coming into fruition.
It is also my utmost pleasure to welcome Duke University as a partner in this endeavour. I am immensely proud that Duke University as a global institution of higher learning has joined this important partnership in pursuit of youth empowerment in our country. It is highly inspiring to note that the various initiatives that we have embarked upon in promoting the National Development Plan (NDP) are beginning to yield positive results. This kind of synergy is what gives credence to the NDP as the overarching plan of the country. In a manner of speaking, we are saying, ‘The NDP is alive. The NDP is in motion.’
Our gathering today is a vital step in our preparations to participate fully and effectively in the fourth industrial revolution. The fourth industrial revolution with all its unprecedented inventions, presents both challenges and opportunities. It is against this backdrop that this masterclass is organised under the theme: “The Fourth Industrial Revolution as a Disruptor and Opportunity.”
It is the youth who stand to benefit the most from this revolution. It is for this reason that the youth must occupy the frontline trenches. We have here amongst us this morning, young people who boast exceptional achievements in diverse industries. These youth achievers will form part of the NDP brand ambassador programme, which will be launched in September this year. The NDP brand ambassador programme is an endeavour aimed at providing a platform for young people to share ideas that will take South Africa forward.
One of the most significant tenets of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is the power of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in transforming lives. I believe that the ICT sector is key to future growth of our country, the continent and the world at large. As we exist in the digital age and in the midst of a universe that is continuously shrinking to become a global village, ICT and Innovation are elements that underpin our future growth and development.
The ICT Industry is one of the most crucial elements in the realization of the objectives of the NDP. Internet access and broadband spectrum is the lifeblood of innovation, entrepreneurship and opportunity. We must position South Africa and the African continent as a global leader in the development and use of information and communication technologies for socio-economic development.
2. EMBRACING THE FOURTH INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
The fourth industrial revolution is upon us and the youth are at the forefront of this crusade. If we are to dream of a brighter future for our country, it is essential that training in ICT and business development become integral in our education system. That is the best way in which we can cultivate the landscape for the prosperity of future innovators.
In my previous address at the Cisco conference, I made reference to my experience at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. This is where I discovered new buzzwords such as ‘Artificial Intelligence’ (AI), ‘The Internet of Things’, ‘Blockchain’, ‘Big Data’, ‘3D printing’, ‘Robotics’ and many innovations. These are the elements that are integral in driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution will transform societies and empower individuals, companies and governments in ways that were unthinkable a few years ago. We are already in a new digital era where economic growth will be led by ground-breaking technological advancements within the ICT sector.
We are in the ‘disruption age’ where ICT and internet companies have become the global juggernauts, usurping market share in every geography they enter. As government, the private sector and society at large we need to act, and act very quickly. Ideas that not so long ago were in the realm of science fiction, have become a reality.
It is for this reason that technology is at the core of every business strategy. We need to make use of technology to transform businesses and enhance good, accountable and transparent governance across the African continent. As government, we are well aware that we cannot thrive administratively without incorporating technological innovations. We are constantly on the lookout for new inventions in order to enhance the effectiveness of our operations to improve the lives of the people of South Africa.
We must always remember the words of the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, who rightfully observed that, “change is the only thing constant in life.” Technology reminds us that life is not static. Technological innovations teach us that learning is a lifelong experience. It challenges us to always push the boundaries and expand our horizons of knowledge.
This is the culture that we need to instil in society at large. In this digital age, the world of laptops, tablets, iPhone, and other modern gadgets, it is either you adapt to technological innovations or you will remain in a still point when the world around you is moving. Those of us who have had the dreadful experience of being incarcerated, know very well how it feels to be left behind when the world is fast evolving.
3. CHAMPIONING YOUTH EMPOWERMENT
It has become a clichéd statement to say that our youth today are tomorrow’s leaders. What we tend to forget is that the journey towards their leadership destiny begins today. It’s a long and arduous journey, with mountains and gorges along the way, but it’s a journey worth traveling. It requires individuals with great zeal, fortitude and tenacity to carry on despite the challenges.
Our objective reality reveals that the youth remains the hardest hit by the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality. The latest figures on youth unemployment in South Africa indicate that 48% of youth are unemployed. These are some of the challenges that we must collectively address with the urgency that they deserve.
Youth unemployment is a grave concern all over the world and on the African continent in particular. In an effort to augment our efforts on youth empowerment, the African Union (AU) declared 2017 as the “Year of Harnessing the Demographic Dividend Through Investments in Youth.” Deputy Minister Buti Manamela is part of a number of structures that seek to prioritise youth empowerment on the continent.
Government, business and civil society organisations should work together to combat poverty and unemployment. They should provide skills development opportunities through training, internships and mentorship for young graduates and budding entrepreneurs. This is how we can establish a solid foundation for rapid and inclusive economic growth in our country.
The youth must be at the forefront of fundamental change in society. We must raise a new generation of young people that will not be job seekers but job creators. We need innovative young entrepreneurs who will play a significant role in the renewal of our economy. Entrepreneurship is a fundamental endeavour for economic emancipation.
It is our local innovators and entrepreneurs who will ultimately create the millions of jobs that we need to grow in order to have an inclusive economy. Innovators always seek to discover something new to contribute to the betterment of the world. They challenge themselves to achieve beyond their current accolades.
The NDP recognises innovation as the principal tool for applying knowledge in production processes and disseminating knowledge through teaching and research collaboration. We must advocate aggressively for the embrace and utilisation of this technological paradigm shift. It is part of the journey along the road to the ideal South Africa, as envisaged in the NDP.
The NDP is very emphatic on developing faster and more inclusive growth. The NDP makes it abundantly clear that the achievement of economic transformation and inclusive growth will not result from a single intervention – it needs a wide range of stakeholders to be involved. Business is a vital partner in our efforts to develop a more dynamic, inclusive and flourishing economy. That is why we applaud the initiative taken by Cisco, Duke University, the NYDA and other partners in this endeavour.
The strength of public-private partnerships is that they help businesses grow their customer base and increase their profit margins while at the same time addressing government imperatives like employment creation. This is the reason why inclusive growth is central in the development agenda of the South African government.
4. ESTABLISHING A SOCIAL PACT
We embark on all these initiatives conscious of the fact that our greatest asset is human capital. We must invest in skills development so that we can produce young men and women who will become exceptional innovators and make a meaningful contribution to the economic growth of our country.
Government alone does not have capacity to create jobs for each and every person that is currently unemployed. However, through sound partnerships and hard work we can make significant contribution towards the improvement of the standards of living for the majority of our people.
We all espouse a better, more prosperous and economically viable South Africa. We must strengthen collaboration and partnerships amongst the various social partners, especially business, civil society, state owned enterprises and the different spheres of government. The nexus between government, civil society and business is a potent combination that can create a more dynamic, inclusive and thriving economic environment.
This is a clarion call for young people to occupy their rightful place in the frontline trenches of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Innovation, science and the ICT sector presents endless possibilities for the prosperity of youth entrepreneurs. As NDP Ambassadors, let us all put shoulders to the wheel in pursuit of a better and more prosperous South Africa.
It is our future – make it work!