With the shift towards the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) well underway, innovation has emerged as one of the key attributes of a winning nation. South Africa can take its place at the forefront of 4IR by investing in building its Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics and Innovation (STEAMI) skills base and attracting more youth to careers and studies in the field.
Global technology change and scientific advances are moving at a blistering pace, and innovation is the key to growing South Africa’s economy, addressing developmental challenges, and creating new jobs, says Noxolo Kahlana, Head of Sasol Foundation. Innovation enables societies to achieve more with fewer resources, driving higher productivity, growth, and sustainability, says Kahlana.
“In a country where a third of young graduates are unemployed and where we face profound socioeconomic challenges, we need bold and creative solutions,” adds Kahlana. “Innovation comes from harnessing not only the technical know-how of traditional STEM fields, but also synthesising it with the arts and humanities to come up with bold answers to today’s biggest problems.”
Kahlana adds that the challenges we face today are so complex that no single field has all the answers. Climate change and sustainability, healthcare, basic infrastructure, gender equity, social justice, and education are all areas where we can drive better results through a multidisciplinary approach that catalyses innovative thinking and unlocks new approaches.
In taking this approach, South Africa can boost its global competitiveness and position itself at the forefront of 4IR. Furthermore, investing in home-grown STEAMI skills can help us to reduce our reliance on imported innovation and technology as well as to create solutions that are designed for local conditions and that address local problems.
“Nearly a third of young graduates in South Africa are unemployed. The convergence of roles and disciplines under the banner of STEAMI education opens possibilities for the youth we couldn’t even conceive of 20 years ago,” says Kahlana. “As we can see from the rapid economic progress India and China have made in recent years, STEAMI is the key to creating economic opportunity for more people.
“Preparing youth to enter STEAMI studies and careers is essential for widening their job opportunities and expands their professional horizons. As we uplift more youth through high-quality jobs, they in turn can uplift their communities. This could help us create a cycle of education, employment, and opportunity that leads to a more prosperous nation.”
Hosted from 12 to 16 September, Sasol Techno X, South Africa’s premier exhibition showcases the amazing possibilities of careers in STEAMI to South Africa’s next generation of leaders and innovators. This is the 20th anniversary of a groundbreaking annual event that attracts more than 20,000 attendees each year. Find out more. Also learn about Sasol Foundation bursaries for South African learners planning to pursue a full-time undergraduate or postgraduate degree or diploma in selected STEM and non-STEM courses.