Huawei reveals massive 5G, 4IR training ambitions in SA

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Communications and digital technologies minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.
Communications and digital technologies minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

Huawei SA, in partnership with the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT), plans to launch free online and on-site training in 5G and fourth industrial revolution (4IR) technologies, targeting 6 000 South Africans, who are either post-graduate ICT students or practitioners.

The announcement was made this morning at the joint DCDT annual Seeds for the Future send-off ceremony at the Huawei Office Park in Woodmead, Johannesburg.

This as the Chinese telecommunications company has been caught up in the ongoing trade war between the US and China, which resulted in Huawei and its affiliates being blacklisted.

The US, which put Huawei on an export blacklist citing national security issues, has been rallying its allies to cut Huawei out of planned 5G networks, citing “national security threats” due to the company’s close ties to the Chinese government.

The blacklist has seen companies, including Alphabet’s Google and British chip designer ARM, limit or cease their relationships with the Chinese company.

The Seeds for the Future training programme is a Huawei-driven global social responsibility initiative in SA. 

This is the fourth group of Seeds for the Future students to depart on a learning trip to China.  

Huawei South Africa runs it in partnership with the DCDT. Through the programme, 10 university students are selected from various institutions across SA to participate in a study trip to in China.

According to Huawei, the Seeds for the Future objective is to cultivate ICT talent, promote knowledge transfer in the telecoms industry and broaden digital access.

Huawei CEO Spawn Fan explains that in addition to its Seeds for the Future programme, the company is finalising its talent development strategy for 4IR-SA, to contribute to DCDT minister Stella Ndabeni Abrahams’s goal to equip a million young people with data science and related skills by 2030.

“We recently launched a free 5G training course at University of Pretoria, Wits and UJ, and plan to take that to more institutions,” notes Fan.

“We are now partnering with the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies to deliver a 5G and 4IR online training platform with an accredited certification for 5 000 ICT students and professionals in South Africa. We aim to train a further 1 000 students in our on-site programme.”

The Huawei CEO says it is the duty of all ICT players, including government, academia and the private sector, to ensure all South Africans benefited from the opportunities that connectivity brings.

Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams  flanked by Huawei SA CEO, Spawn Fan, and this year's Seeds for the Future students.
Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams flanked by Huawei SA CEO, Spawn Fan, and this year's Seeds for the Future students.

4IR army

Since her appointment, Ndabeni-Abrahams has dedicated attention to all things Industry 4.0, coining the now-popular phrase "building a capable 4IR army". She believes it is important to build capacity for the 4IR by making sure the workforce is ready for the revolution.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has designated Ndabeni-Abrahams's department to coordinate government's 4IR programme.

Speaking at today’s Seeds for the Future send-off, Ndabeni-Abrahams wished the departing 10 students well on their travels.

“Through multilateral engagements such as in BRICS, South Africa has resolved to cooperate at various levels, including capacity-building, skills development and research. The Seeds of the Future programme, which focuses on critical 4IR-related skills, is therefore an important opportunity to expose ICT students to Huawei’s world-class research and training facilities in China.”

Ndabeni-Abrahams added: “The department has adopted the theme: coordinate, collaborate, execute 4IR,” noting that at the heart of the 4IR conversation is a people-centred response that speaks to jobs, skills and broad economic participation.

“Accordingly, we have developed initiatives such as the ‘building a capable 4IR army’ programme to ensure our communities, especially the youth, are equipped to take advantage of new digital technologies, unlock future jobs and drive competitiveness.”

SA backing

Amid the backlash from the West, Ramaphosa has stood in Huawei’s corner in defence of the Chinese company.

During the inaugural Digital Economy Summit earlier this year, the South African president accused the US of being “clearly jealous” of Huawei.

He was widely reported as saying: “They [the US] are jealous that a Chinese company called Huawei has outstripped them. And because they have been outstripped, they must now punish that one company and use it as a pawn in the fight that they have with China.”

Huawei then reciprocated with a statement saying: “Huawei South Africa welcomes President Ramaphosa’s statement of confidence in Huawei, which has been a trusted partner to local telcos, partners and consumers for the past 20 years.

“We are encouraged to continue with our work and investment in South Africa’s ICT sector as the country is preparing for the fourth industrial revolution. We share government’s vision that ICT will be among the key drivers for future economic growth and social development.

“We will continue to work with dedication and focus to support the needs of South African telcos and ICT partners, especially as they continue to bring good service and experience to their customers and gear up to deploy the next-generation mobile network.

“We look forward to working with relevant stakeholders to bring better connectivity to people in SA, with ICT products and solutions, including advanced 5G technology.”

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