How can African states respond to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) ? Assessing the readiness of Africa’s education system to produce human capital for 4IR

How can African states respond to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) ? Assessing the readiness of Africa’s education system to produce human capital for 4IR


Observing the implications of 4IR, it can be noted that education takes a back seat , as to the scrutiny of how 4IR will transform the sector.1 Evidently , there is limited discussion as to how curricula should adapt and develop to 4IR.2 Discussion is necessary as curricula is still reliant on redundant models that are “battling” to adapt to 4IR. 3 This creates a gap between the “demand of the new technologies and labour markets” as they are held to be insufficient to meet the needs of 4IR. 4 Specifically, within the African context, there is “scarce empirical evidence” on the required skills that would be essential to effectively integrate into 4IR.5 It is held that, skills and academic qualifications that are produced by African Educational institutions are not suitable for the nature of work that would be available with the 4IR.6 Therefore, it is essential for the African educational eco system to adapt to this new order or else it risks widening the existing gap. Mitigation of this involves change in curricula, where there is identification of the necessary skills needed in the “African 4IR” in order to ensure there is no mismatch of skills or gap of skills for the current and future generation of the African workforce . 7 Appreciating this , the following blog series will assess how various African states are reformulating their curricula to adapt to 4IR

Education 4.0 and Curricula

Curricula’s main purpose is to “shape human beings socially, economically, morally, politically to prepare them for employment.”8 Therefore, a good curriculum addresses the above factors by providing a conducive environment in which individuals can effectively learn. Within the 4IR, there has been an emergence of a “pedagogical approach” known as Education 4.0.9 This approach is one that streamlines with the demands of the 4IR, as it transforms the role of students from ‘passive learners’ to ‘active learners.10 Therefore, students actively construct their knowledge rather than passively ingesting knowledge. Education 4.0 involves “flexible and tailor-made curricula” , where there is emphasis on the use of digital tools, personalised learning and collaboration to ensure learners are prepared for the 4IR. ‘Tailor made curricula’ is held to play the role of either ‘enabler or disabler’ in the actualisation of human capital for the 4IR. Specifically it has the role of promoting the technical and non-skills of the 4IR. These skills range from; technological skills , digital skills , programming skills to thinking skills , soft skills and personal skills.11 Bearing this we look towards South and East African states and their approach to changing curricula to meet the demands of the 4IR.

  1. South Africa

The education system has engaged with 4IR skills through the development of CAPS (Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement) .12 This is a policy document that aims to provide guidance for learning and teaching in South African educational institutions. The policy document contains skills and values associated with 4IR. This is evident with the objectives of the document that aims to equip students with problem solving, critical thinking skills and creative thinking . These skills form a foundational basis for students to communicate effectively through the use of visual, symbolic or language skills in various modes as well as the utilising of science and technology effectively. 13

In addition , the government has identified key areas for the Post School Education and Training (PSET) to align with the needs of the 4IR. They visualise a PSET system that provides a “strong core of education and training programmes” that align with the changing needs of both the South African society as well as 4IR. 14 The PSET programmes provide access to specialised skills and content.15 The mechanisms for the review and update of the PSET programmes are streamlined to ensure curriculum development is aligned with the production of new knowledge, that is enabled by the 4IR requirements.16 There is a growing need to integrate PSET programmes and courses with learning opportunities that prepare people to cope with the accelerating change , both socially and economically.17 Emphasis is on the key generic skills such as “problem-solving , critical thinking, advanced literacy and numeracy skills, oral and written communication skills, the capacity for ethical reasoning and the ability to work effectively in teams”. 18 Therefore, to support the development of these skills within the 4IR , focus is placed on specialised programmes that enable students to “comprehend the role and the function of technologies”.19

Curricula aims to create capacity for students to apply ethical reasoning so they can appreciate and understand the impact of 4IR technologies on individuals and the environment.20 PSET programmes are designed in a manner that creates an “open-loop education platform”, where there is continuous learning occurring.21 This allows students to build on foundational knowledge through engaging with “ongoing education” that focuses on skills acquisition throughout their life.22 Essentially this allows students to re-enter PSET at specific points where their existing skillset would be “outdated” or “low relevance” or “where there is need to advance their lives or career path in response to changing circumstances.” 23This ties in with the wider goal of creating a PSET system that is agile and is responsive to the ever-changing educational needs across the lifespan of an individual as well as adapting to the 4IR and its evolutionary process.24

  1. Kenya

The state has recently reformed its curricula from the 8-4-4 system into the new competency-based curriculum (CBC). The adoption of such a curriculum is to ensure that the state aligns with international standards, that focuses on skills acquisition.25 The main objective of CBC is to ensure that “every student should be competent in seven core competence areas: communication and collaboration , critical thinking and problem solving ; citizenship; learning to learn ; self-efficacy and digital literacy to ensure every Kenyan student is empowered to become a productive citizen.”26 CBC is held to develop the required pre-requisite skills needed to interact in the current technological era as well as compete in the current and future job market.27 It “aspires” to develop a workforce that is capable of meeting the technological social economic demands of modern day.28 This is actualised through the development of “critical thinking , nurturing of students passions and developing their talents and competence”. 29


The assessment of the two states illustrate that curriculums have adapted to the needs and demands of the 4IR. This is evident with presence of technical and non-technical skills of the 4IR within curricula. This is vital to ensure that , current and future workforce can effectively integrate into the labour market. The next blog aims to explore the West and Northern region and how their curriculums are adapting and reforming to the 4IR.

1 Butler-Adam, J The Fourth Industrial Revolution and Education [2018] SAJS 114:1

2 ibid

3 World Economic Forum & Boston Consulting Group ; Centre for the New Economy and Society Report; Towards a reskilling revolution: industry-led action for the future of work [2019] ,

<> last accessed 24th May 2023

4 Mamabolo A & Kerrin M, Bridging Africa’s Skills 4:0 Gap: Repositioning Learning, Teaching, and Research of Skills in Higher Education Institutions [2020] SS&HO


5 ibid

6 Reddy V, Bhorat H., Powell M, Visser M. & Arends A , Skills Supply and Demand in South Africa [2016] LMIP Publication and Human Sciences Research Council

<> last accessed 24th May 2023

7 Anyanwu J C, Characteristics and macroeconomic determinants of youth employment in Africa [2013] , ADR 25(2)

8 Oliver(n1)

9 Ocampo L, Education 4.0 in Developing Economies <> last accessed 24th May 2023

10 Sanagari B, Industry 4.0 requires a shift to Education 4.0 [2019]

<> last accessed 24th May 2023

11 ibid

12 ibid

13 ibid

14 ibid

15 ibid

16 ibid

17 ibid

18 ibid

19 ibid

20 ibid

21 ibid

22 ibid

23 ibid

24 ibid

25Masika S J, Competence-Based Curriculum Implementation: Assessing Kenya’s Readiness and Preparedness

26 Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development , Basic Education Curriculum Framework [2017] <> last accessed 24th

27Muasya E W & Waweru S N, Constraints Facing Successful Implementation of the Competency Based Curriculum in Kenya [2019] AJER 7:12

28 Masika (n24)

29 Nyaboke R, Kereri D& Nyabwari K L, Competence-based Curriculum (CBC) in Kenya and the Challenge of Vision 2030 [2021] IJETS 1(4)

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