The youth being the cornerstone of development and economic growth in Eswatini is evident in the high population of young people, which stands at 79%.

However, this cannot be realised if this economically active population is constantly faced with a number of relentless challenges, the most dominant being the high unemployment rate in the country and access to education.

In a bid to address some of the issues affecting the country’s youth, Intellectual Foundations hosted a summit themed ‘My Ability to Positively Contribute to the Sustainable Economic Growth of Eswatini’ on July 26 at Sibane Hotel. The summit highlighted the different abilities that the youth have and sought to expose them to critical and fundamental information on how they can develop, sharpen and skilfully use these abilities to improve their livelihoods and their communities.

Present at the summit were industry leaders and speakers from the different sectors of the economy, who shared expert insights and presented case studies in-line with the theme. ESEPARC) Research Fellow Tengetile Hlophe delivered a presentation on ‘The Youth and the 4th Industrial Revolution’, which she described as an era where the exponential changes to the way people live, work, produce and relate to one another are caused by the rapid adoption of technology and innovations.

She noted that some of the technologies characterising the fourth industrial revolution are robotics, drones, genetic engineering, big data, and artificial intelligence. “As we implement smart technologies in our factories and workplaces, connected machines will interact, visualise the entire production chain and make decisions autonomously. This revolution is expected to have an impact on all disciplines, industries, and economies,” she said.

Tengetile further noted that the fourth industrial revolution should not be ignored – more especially by young people – but should be taken as an advantage to improve efficiency at work and in business by applying technology to improve lives and create jobs.

She pointed out that the production of goods and services in the economy is growing at a low rate, which calls for young people to think outside the box and come up with new ways of doing things. “Just because a neighbour sells fruits does not mean you should do the same. As an entrepreneur, you should develop a set of skills to ensure that your business grows and it is sustainable,” she added.

The research fellow advised the youth that when thinking about start-up capital they should think of ways to generate money rather than wait for funding institutions to invest in their businesses. She emphasised that government policy should drive towards providing a conducive environment for the youth to leverage technology for their businesses; as the actual use and application of knowledge is becoming more and more important in the fourth industrial revolution, thus advanced technical and vocational skills become just as important.

While the fourth industrial revolution can increase efficiency, improve lives, the research fellow noted that the revolution also brings challenges, with the biggest threat being mass unemployment and a growing gap between corporations and the population.

“A lot of jobs will be replaced by automation and technology, which is why young people should be multi-skilled and align themselves to what is still to come. The World Economic Forum (2017) predicts that 41% of the work in South Africa, 44% in Ethiopia, 46% in Nigeria, and 52% in Kenya is susceptible to automation. Creativity, especially among the youth, is what will take us forward,” she said.

“We need to re-position ourselves and develop skills that will drive the industrial revolution. Most African countries, including Eswatini, are lacking in advanced skills relating to information and communications technology (ICT). In the 4th industrial revolution, ICT should be our basic language because the intensity of jobs is continuously increasing, reported at 26% in South Africa, computer literacy should be a must-have skill.”

Adding, the research fellow noted that having strong soft skills and being a critical thinker aids in all aspects of life – from professional to personal – and everything that falls in between. “Young people should think of the opportunities in the country’s ailing economy and identify solutions to drive social and economic development because entrepreneurship is not just a job, but a mind-set,” she concluded.