A lot of people are afraid of robotics because they think it means robots are going to take over their jobs. That’s the wrong way to look at it. In fact robotics will create jobs and in South Africa this can only ever be good news.

Our high rate of youth unemployment – even among university graduates – is one of the biggest problems in this country. Six million people are unemployed in South Africa, 63% of them under the age of 35. If we’re smart we’ll grab the opportunity robotics presents to improve their lives and, in the process, improve our country.

While older generations grapple with the fast‐changing world of robotic process automation (RPA), young people who were born into our digital world are inherently technically capable. They adapt fast, learn new technologies quickly, and aren’t fazed by constantly changing concepts and evolving data. So how do we use robotics to make them more employable?

Industries like telecoms and finance (banking, medical and other insurance) have had great success in deploying bots to handle routine and repetitive tasks such as processing claims. While South Africa has kept up with the rest of the world in pace and scale of using robotics to automate processes, there is still significant scope for deployment.

The rapid growth in bot deployment has led to a shortage of skills around the world which forces local companies to employ ready trained staff from countries where this expertise has been growing over the last decade. This offers a great opportunity for South Africans with this skill to use it overseas. This does however result in higher levels of vacancies here, which is why there is merit in training robotics analysts.

The ROI is obvious for large companies that want to become leaner and remove time‐consuming and expensive processes, with the inevitable by‐product of improved levels of customer service – and which company doesn’t want that?

For graduates, multi‐skilling and adding robotics process automation makes them employable in various areas and future‐proofs them against replacement by bots. This is how we can take advantage of robotics as an emerging technology, teaching the skills to the incoming youth and moulding their full skill sets to current and future requirements.