SA workers’ adoption rate of AI surpasses those in Europe and US

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South Africa AI
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South Africans are increasingly integrating generative artificial intelligence (AI) into their daily work routines, outpacing many other countries in adoption and usage. This shift reflects a broader global trend, as generative AI emerges as one of the most transformative technologies of our time.

Rapid adoption and usage

According to a survey by the Oliver Wyman Forum, over 60% of South African workers regularly use generative AI tools, with 41% using them at least once a week and 21% daily.

Here’s the kicker: this adoption rate surpasses those in Europe and the US, where only about 41-46% of workers report frequent use.

Read: Are robots stealing our skills? MIT expert says maybe not

Prejlin Naidoo, a partner at CMT, Oliver Wyman, explains, “South African workers are showing a stronger appetite for AI skills and development compared to many advanced economies.”

Training and skills development

The demand for AI training is high among South African workers, with nearly 85% of survey respondents expressing a desire for more AI training.

Currently, 78% are receiving some form of training, yet 57% find it inadequate. Naidoo notes, “This concern is shared across both white-collar workers and skilled laborers, highlighting a need for more comprehensive and effective training programs.”

Younger generations, such as Gen Z and millennials, are particularly proactive in seeking out AI skills. Naidoo says that employers must address the gaps in training to ensure that the workforce is equipped to handle the evolving technological landscape. This includes mitigating cybersecurity risks and ensuring the accuracy and fairness of AI-generated content.

Concerns over job losses

Despite the positive outlook on AI’s potential to enhance job performance, there are significant concerns about job displacement. According to the survey, approximately 70% of white-collar workers in South Africa fear that AI automation could lead to job losses. On average, workers believe that 45% of their jobs could be automated due to generative AI, with 36% actively seeking other employment opportunities as a result.

These fears are not unfounded. The World Economic Forum predicts that AI could disrupt up to 85 million jobs by 2025, with one-third of entry-level jobs at risk of automation. However, Naidoo points out, “AI could also create 97 million new jobs by 2025. The key will be how companies manage the transition and invest in retraining their employees.”

AI with Purpose

To maximize the benefits of AI while minimizing its risks, companies must implement AI purposefully. This involves deploying AI in contexts where it is most effective and poses minimal risk. Collaboration with AI experts can help organizations navigate this landscape, identify opportunities, and ensure they fully capitalize on AI’s potential.

Ultimately, organizations must recognize the importance of upskilling their staff to adapt to the changing technological environment. Naidoo explains, “Developing generative AI will require integrating human thinking, skills, and experience into the transformation. This human-AI collaboration will set companies apart in the years ahead.”

As South Africa continues to embrace AI, the focus must remain on balancing technological advancement with the needs and concerns of the workforce. By investing in training and fostering a collaborative approach, South African businesses can harness the power of AI while ensuring a sustainable and inclusive future.

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