The impact of Industry 4.0—the next phase in the digitization of the manufacturing sector driven by computing power, connectivity, and new forms of human-machine interaction—will be wide and profound. It offers exciting opportunities for African manufacturers and small and medium enterprises to create new business models and integrate into global value chains. However, benefiting from Industry 4.0 requires overcoming a myriad of obstacles. For African economies, some of the biggest challenges include connectivity and accessibility constraints. Many firms struggle due to a lack of digital infrastructure, a paucity of digital skills, and inadequate support systems for those businesses eager to harness digital innovation. Given Africa’s unique context, policymakers must ask the right questions to make sure the continent can capitalize on the revolution.
On June 4, the Brookings Africa Growth Initiative and United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) explored strategies to anticipate and circumvent the challenges the New Industrial Revolution is generating as well as how all of Africa can benefit from Industry 4.0. A panel of experts tackled questions such as: What can be done to put the prerequisites for Industry 4.0 adoption in place? What are the overall implications for Africa within the Industry 4.0 paradigm? How can Industry 4.0 be harnessed to improve the livelihoods of the continent’s most vulnerable people?