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Harnessing Automation For Economic Growth in South Africa

Automation can lead to a major boost to South Africa’s future economic prosperity. Through increased digitisation and faster pace of technology implementation, South Africa can increase job creation and promote economic growth, as well as improve its competitiveness in the global market.


A prevalent factor hindering the adoption of automation in South Africa is a fear of job displacement posing significant changes within the workforce. A report done by McKinsey & Company, states that digitalisation could displace an estimate of 3.3 million existing jobs by 2030. However, South Africa has the potential to create up to 4.5 million new jobs across a multitude of sectors with the implementation of new technologies. Digitisation and automation could, therefore, result in a net gain of up to 1.2 million jobs by 2030.

South Africa has a high unemployment rate and with the implementation of new technologies, there is the potential to unlock over a million new job opportunities for South Africans. However, South African decision-makers need to manage workforce displacement effectively and drive an increase in the graduate conversion rate, as the new jobs created will require a higher level of skills.


Over the last 12 years, South Africa’s GDP growth rate has decreased by 43%. Research done by McKinsey & Company, as well as an analysis by the McKinsey Global Institute and a survey of about 70 South African leaders, finds that technology could reverse these trends by unlocking greater productivity across many sectors of the economy.

Examples of the benefits sectors of the economy can expect when using digitisation:

  • Robot-assisted production can reduce human error and increase efficiency in metal fabrication.
  • An improvement in safety and reduction in costs can be expected with underground mine automation.
  • Digitisation can improve customer experience and drive greater efficiency in financial services. 

The implementation of digitalisation tools within sectors of the economy can therefore lead to significant growth in South Africa’s GDP.

Digitisation and automation can provide substantial improvements to South Africa’s economy. The need to implement digital solutions has never been higher and it is now a question of when, rather than if.