During his State of the Nation address, President Cyril Ramaphosa said government will introduce coding and robotics in Grades R to 3, in 200 schools, to equip learners with the required skills for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

By Ferreira, co-founder and CEO of Osidon

In January, the Department of Basic Education announced it will introduce a new curriculum at South African schools to help equip learners for the developing world. Key to this new curriculum will be the introduction of subjects such as entrepreneurship, robotics and coding. This is one of the steps taken by the government to improve education in the country, with a plan to implement it fully by 2022.

President Ramaphosa has previously emphasised the importance of South Africans embracing a culture of entrepreneurship as the country aims to attract R1,2-trillion in investment over five years.

There are many benefits to these additions to the school curriculum, as we can all agree that South Africa’s youth is not equipped for the future as it stands.

Firstly, children with early exposure may show an aptitude early on and be encouraged to progress even outside of the school environment to create an advanced generation that could help teach the teachers or other pupils at lower levels.

Secondly, it is likely that programming work will soon stop being an exotic-sounding career and, instead, become a very mainstream one, with almost every occupation featuring technology as part of the job. This means we are preparing our youth for an inevitable part of their future careers.

Thirdly, because the University of Oxford and UNESCO predict that up to 60% of jobs today will be non-existent in the next decade or two, we need to introduce school subjects that are responsive to the demands of the changing world. Just as writing teaches us to communicate with humans, coding teaches us to communicate with machines – something that will only increase going forward.

Introducing coding in schools will pave the way for South Africa to be recognised on the international stage as a tech-savvy nation, willing to adopt cutting-edge approaches to education to reach our country’s economic and education goals.

In addition, we have the opportunity to grow our workforce and ensure their skill levels are above average. Possessing skills in niche technology industries will make workers indispensable to employers, ensuring long-term job security. This, in turn, will lead to increased investment appetite in SA as the job market will be more stable.

During the Financial Times Africa Summit in London last year, President Ramaphosa described Africa as a continent of entrepreneurs, a critical ingredient for growth. With the support of government in the fields of tech and innovation education, we can provide access to digital opportunities for all South Africans – from a young age.

The tech sector is already heeding the call from the president to ensure job creation, economic growth and innovation. Ramaphosa said South Africans are not just consumers of tech, we are also inventing, adapting and customising technology for our needs. This is proof of our country’s appetite for tech solutions.

If we can teach children about coding and entrepreneurship from a young age, we can cultivate a strong workforce in the tech industry in the next two decades.

By making coding part of the curriculum, we can ensure the private sector is provided with a consistent stream of digital and skills. Then, we can focus on positioning South Africa at the forefront of digital innovation in the region. If we achieve this, we can confirm our country’s expertise to other countries looking to outsource their tech services.

With our high-quality education system and affordable wages, we are the ideal country for outsourcing tech activities. We have the means to become intermediaries for major superpowers such as China, the US and Europe.

As we reflect on Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s budget speech of last week, we can only hope funds will be allocated to make these education dreams come true.

Technology and innovation will require substantial upfront investment. But, if we showcase our useful and niche skill sets to the world, international investors with capital will look towards the tip of Africa with confidence.