4IR and South Africa’s readiness to embrace it



The fourth industrial revolution can compromise people’s traditional sources of meaning — work, community, family, and identity — or it can lift humanity into a new collective and moral consciousness, based on a sense of shared destiny. The choice is ours. — Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum

Given the profound impact the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) is predicted to have on global societies, the question being asked locally is: “How aware, prepared and enabled is South Africa in this context?”

As one of South Africa’s leading socioeconomic thought leaders and developmental agencies, Kagiso Trust took this question and set about trying to answer it, at least in part, through a recently commissioned qualitative and quantitative research study.

It’s the first South African study to evaluate, on a large scale, citizen awareness of 4IR and its potential impact on South African society in general. The findings provide a solid informational baseline in directing all of Kagiso Trust’s future socioeconomic developmental initiatives, and will assist other policymakers and stakeholders involved in setting a national agenda around this issue.

Kagiso Trust’s developmental programmes range from early child development and higher education through to socioeconomic development in the commercial sector and institutional capacity building in local government and civil society — all of which will be or are already being impacted by 4IR. This alone indicates the breadth and depth of 4IR’s coming impact.

A total of 1 105 responses were collected from economically active respondents from 20 South African districts, across all nine provinces.


These are the key results of this study. The full report is available on the Kagiso Trust website, under the Knowledge Hub menu banner.

• Almost half (49.1%) of the respondents believed that there will be a societal impact from 4IR.

• Two in five of the respondents believe that there will be no job creation with the advent of 4IR.

• Just over half of the respondents were of the view that 4IR will result in large-scale job losses, with two in five believing it will lead to social unrest.

• Only a quarter of the respondents believe that the 4IR will improve societal equality.

• A third of the respondents believe that during the 4IR there will be an improvement to service delivery.

• More than half of the respondents believe that there will be an improvement in re-industrialisation from the 4IR. Government and private sector respondents were optimistic about 4IR.

It’s clear that 4IR is an unknown or at best a poorly understood concept by a substantial portion of South African citizens. This lack of knowledge, especially among entrepreneurs, is cause for concern.


There is a great deal to be done to prepare South Africa for 4IR. It will require a multi-disciplinary, multi-faceted, educational awareness and up-skilling approach from all stakeholders: government, private sector, educational institutions, developmental agencies, the media and ultimately the forward-thinking individual.

4IR is coming whether we are prepared for it or not. Are we, as a society going to ready ourselves and embrace it and let it lift us into a new collective and moral consciousness with a sense of shared destiny, or will we allow it to compromise our traditional sources of meaning — work, community, family, and identity? The choice is firmly in our collective hands.

About Kagiso

Kagiso Trust is one of South Africa’s leading development agencies, working towards a prosperous, peaceful, equitable and just society. We work to overcome poverty by developing and implementing scalable, replicable, sustainable development programme models in the areas of education development, institutional capacity building, socioeconomic development and financial sustainability.

In the past 30 years, we have invested over R2-billion in development and implemented 1 831 programmes.

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