The South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) has recently entered into a strategic partnership with Ireland-based outfit called InnoGlobal to bring a ‘Digital Transformation (DT)’ – a short course designed for the advanced manufacturing sectors in both South Africa and the African continent.
InnoGlobal is an engineering and innovative solutions provider and has developed the short course through its higher education institute, InnoPharma Education. The course will be piloted as a skills training initiative funded by the UK Newtown Fund through the Development in Africa with Radio Astronomy (DARA)’s Big Data project. SARAO – which is a delivery partner of the UK-South Africa Newton Fund – will lead the local hosting and implementation of the course with the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences South Africa.
Integrating smart technologies
According to the SARAO, the Digital Transformation refers to the smart integration of technologies, processes and data to improve operational effectiveness and capability. It says the manufacturing sector needs expertise in, among others:
- process digitalisation
- data management
- data analytics and
- data visualisation to successfully transform to what is known as Industry 4.0.
Manufacturing contributes to GDP
DT introduces graduates to skills and competencies, said SARAO, associated with the concepts of Industry 4.0 digital transformation, adding these skills are applicable to other sectors such as pharmaceutical, medical technology and food processing or manufacturing industries. Manufacturing is considered the country’s fourth largest industry, contributing 14% to the gross domestic product (GDP). In addition, it is among the top three sectors that perform in terms of value add, job creation, export earnings including generating revenue for every rand invested in the country.
High demand occupations
Last year minister of higher education, science and innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, said manufacturing features prominently among some of the key sectors identified for South Africa’s ‘Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan’. Manufacturing is also on the ‘National List of Occupations in High Demand in South Africa’. The digital course will be run on a pilot basis and will accommodate up to 50 graduates from South Africa with eight of them coming from Square Kilometre Array (SKA) African partner countries. The course consists of an online learning component; this will be followed by a one-week intensive workshop in Cape Town, South Africa. Career guidance and mentorship will be offered to graduates after the course to further increase their prospects of finding employment.
Aligned with African manufacturing environment
The course’s content has conceptualised to fit in with an African manufacturing environment. This will contribute to the creation of technical expertise and skills capacity for the continent to fully transition to a digitized era. Furthermore, graduates will gain knowledge and skills on concepts of the smart factory and the evolution of life science manufacturing from a traditional reactive process to the emergence of Industry 4.0 and Pharma 4.0. It is hoped that these graduates will be eligible to take up employment within life science organisations working on transforming its processes to integrate data, new technologies, data analytics, and improved ways of working and improved support processes, said SARAO.
Enhancing graduates’ skills for the 4IR
Dr Bonita de Swardt, SARAO Programme Manager: Strategic Partnerships for Human Capital Development said: “The Digital Transformation course will enhance the skills of graduates to meet the skills needs for manufacturing environments for Africa’s transition to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. SARAO is proud to have played a role in establishing this partnership which will provide upskilling of graduates in preparation for jobs of the future.”
Championing digital skills benefits
Her counterpart Dr Ian Jones, who is also the founder and chief executive officer of InnoPharma Group, also welcomed the partnership. “We have worked with SARAO’s Human Capacity Development Programme for over five years now to champion the benefits of digital skills and human capital investment within the African Union at various global gatherings including UN General Assemblies, European Commission and African Union led workshops. We are delighted to work together on this exciting initiative,” he said.
Dr Jones added that this is an ideal platform for InnoGlobal to showcase its “unique approach to skills co-ordination and delivery through public-private partnership with research institutions, funding agencies and industry”. He concluded: “I am confident that this programme will act as a catalyst for further skills initiatives adding to the capability to manufacture medicines, which is much needed on the African continent.”