Ramaphosa talks technology – and job losses

 ·24 Jul 2019

President Cyril Ramaphosa has highlighted the changing nature of the world in which we live, particularly because of the advances in technology.

The president was speaking at the 25 Years of Democracy Conference, at University of Johannesburg in Auckland Park on Tuesday (24 July).

“Many more people are going to lose jobs,” Ramaphosa said. “They’ll lose jobs because of technology, globalisation, climate change and a whole number of other challenges like low economic growth, as we have seen, in our own country.”

The two-day conference aims to provide an in-depth reflective analysis and report on the past quarter of democracy and how the country can map the next 25 years. Ramaphosa said that, while the conference offers an opportunity to take stock of achievements, it is also a platform to identify the challenges, opportunities and tasks of the present and the future.

“Research and academic institutions have a critical role to play in advising government [and] in providing the necessary data that informs our planning models. As I said in the State of the Nation Address a few weeks ago, this is a government that is not afraid of new ideas, and of new ways of thinking,” he said.

He emphasised that the National Development Plan (NDP) remains government’s lodestar in moving the country forward.

“The NDP calls on all social partners to work together to invest in skills development, particularly at a time when technology is transforming the workplace. Attainment of the NDP’s Vision 2030 rests on having an educated, skilled and capable workforce.

“To produce more graduates in the critical skills needed by our economy, we have to work more closely with universities, TVET colleges and other educational institutions,” the president said.

He also punted the need for government to fast-track the implementation of its policies.

“We have to reflect as government, particularly on whether our implementation model in its current iteration has effectively met our development needs. In attempting to do too much and not coordinating our actions within and between departments, we have been found wanting,” he said.

University of Johannesburg vice chancellor Tshilidzi Marwala emphasised the need for government, in preparation for the next quarter of democracy, to be cognisant that the world of work is shrinking.

“If you look at unemployment in South Africa, it’s because we have been de-industrialising. If we are to become relevant again, we need to find what makes us competitive,” he said.

Read: Ramaphosa dreams of skyscrapers and bullet trains – here’s what happened to the last R84 billion smart city

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