The 4th Industrial Revolution and its Implications for Mining-dependent Countries: Insights from South Africa and Zambia
This interdisciplinary study broadly sought to determine the scope, nature of opportunities, and threats the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) presents to the mining industry in Africa. It examined these threats and opportunities along the entire mining value chain. The study sought to gain empirical knowledge on the current state of mining practices in SADC countries in relation to the increasing adoption of new 4IR technologies. In this report, the countries of focus were South Africa and Zambia. These technologies have transformed mining practices with the result that tasks that were undertaken by human beings are now accomplished by robots and autonomous machines. This transformation has profound implications for mine workers and their communities. The transformation also has radical consequences for trade unions as they have to re-position themselves so that they remain relevant and thus sustainable. The opening chapter of the report gives the background to the study, highlighting the centrality of the mining sector to SADC economies. It is noted how the mining industry is key to the economic fortunes of many countries in Africa. The sector is a major earner of foreign exchange, a significant source of employment, and a potential catalyst to the industrialisation of the continent. The second chapter gives an overview of the mining landscape in SADC in general, and in South Africa and Zambia in particular. The point is made that the mining sector remains one of the key factors shaping the social, political, and economic landscape of most of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states. The third chapter outlines the methodology of the study. The fourth and fifth chapters focus on Zambia and South Africa, respectively. This section of the report provides the profile of the mining companies that participated in this study in the two countries. The two chapters look at the current status of technology in mines in the participating countries, focusing especially on the use of new technology in the new mines. The sixth and seventh chapters look at the voice and position of trade unions in Zambia and South Africa, respectively. This section of the report focuses on the unions’ response to the 4IR and examines awareness of the 4IR concept by unions. The section takes a look at the disruptions of labour dynamics and how unions are preparing for the future of work in the 4IR era. The report closes with a conclusion (Chapter 8) wherein cross-cutting issues are identified. These issues include the voice of the unions, new technology deployment in mines and effects on production, and awareness of the 4IR among mineworkers.