By Ajayi Joel
We need electric cars in Africa by 2020!
If there’s any way to ruin our economy, it is to quickly assume we are on the same level of development as the western countries. This is no racism but even down to fashion, we are not there. Let’s leave fashion aside, I’m here to debunk the myth that we are in the age of 4IR (4th industrial revolution).
What’s my reason for writing this piece, and is there anything at all to learn from this? We, yes, both the government and non-government!
I have seen a lot of start-ups jump the gun with their ideas, and while it may seem so nice to me, it would have been better if the ideas weren’t targeted at Nigerians or even Africans. Unfortunately, they are. What do I mean by jump the gun? What I simply mean is that the industrial revolution has different phases, and these start-ups are way ahead in the phase down to the fourth.
Here’s why we are not in the fourth industrial age and why we cannot skip the phases.
- The fourth industrial age is the age of automation: Explaining this succinctly, I will say automation can only work if there is a structure. When I mean a structure, a structure is a set of systems put in place to ensure that machines keep working in positions that humans should. I am here to say that our jobs are firstly safe, and that only a few jobs will be replaced in the next decade if we do not go through the other industrial ages. Right now, we are in the first industrial age, and the first industrial age is characterized by discoveries. We are not in any way near the second industrial revolution which is the age of industrialization.
Structures can only be set based on previous experience. The western world was able to come up with a structure because they saw or discovered that the previous system had set backs in different areas and they saw the need to overhaul, replace, and modify those existing systems, and the previous existing system was the age of assembling and information. That phase came about when they also discovered that there was a need for advancement from the industrial age.
- African countries cannot manufacture: Fine, let us praise what Rwanda is doing in the area of manufacturing. However, talking about Nigeria, we have not begun to manufacture, to produce and for us to be able to do this, we will need to depend on machineries. Machineries that we need to invent, or bring in. There’s this hype that every youth should go learn AI skills and I wonder if they want to work in Nigeria or get gigs outside the country because unemployment will rise if that’s what all our youths rush into. We cannot let AI automate food process if we haven’t begun planting. We cannot get AI to plant for us if we do not work to get the seed.
The next stage that the government should pay attention to is the production age, the manufacturing age. This stage will provide more jobs than we can imagine. If the economy will thrive then we cannot depend on the gig economy alone; we need to depend on the industrial economy. Matter of fact, we will not dwell so much in this age but we need to get there first.
The skill set required to work in the industrial age is quite different from the ones required to work in the skilled economy but both are necessary if we want to move forward. Production and manufacturing should be at the heart of the government of African countries as this will both provide more jobs, determine the path which we will follow in the coming times. You will not know which tractor will work on your farm if you have not tried your hoe on it. Now, that’s a proverb.
- AI runs on data: This is the third industrial revolution and we are not anywhere near it. We do not have any reasonable database in Nigeria. Automation will only work if there is some sort of accumulated information overtime that gives it instruction and helps it behave in a certain way before it begins to build its own mind.
You cannot tell a robot to walk if you do not train it the way humans are walking. The third industrial revolution is the information age and why I’m so convinced that we have not gotten to this age is because at this stage, there will begin to be lots of displacement of factory workers, those who sit in offices to operate manually will be displaced as well as data will have channels and accessing it will be seamless.
You will not need to queue in offices to get manual recording as there will be a linking between all your profiles. This is the age of assembling as well. Data will be building itself to provide a structure which I mentioned earlier. How do I know we are not in the information age in Nigeria?
Someone once posted on Facebook that we’d begin to use AI in marketing in Africa.
In Africa? For real? AI runs on data so does marketing. Do we have a database for information in Africa? So what does AI want to process to begin to run on its own? I spent 1 good year making researches because I wanted to build an online platform for learning.
Google gave me vague answers. Maybe you should Google the number of youths in Lagos between 18 and 26 who have interest in design. You’d find no response. Go to Facebook and do page search, the response will be very few. For those doing digital marketing, getting huge number of people on a certain keyword sometimes requires much more money.
How did I get data? Google form; I put a clickbait. I offered one of my exclusive books “After school, what next” for free only if you followed a link.
The link directed you to my Google form. You’d need to answer those questions compulsorily, then place your email. After that, I’d tell you to help me share.
That was how I got data.
In our bid to clamor for electric cars, we totally overlook the fact that electricity needs to be stable, and that the transportation system and logistics need to be fixed; all parts of the manufacturing age and data age. Roads need to be fixed which means more bitumen need to be refined and more gravel need to be mined.
My point; our tech ecosystem should stop raising shoulders about how they are preparing us for the fourth industrial revolution when we are not ready for the third. Our technology is not there yet but efforts should be geared to fast track the process.