This is an excerpt from my book ‘Understanding the 4th Industrial Revolution & Innovation Easily.’ It is available on Amazon, in South African bookstores, and on my website.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution – also known as Industry 4.0 or 4IR – is the first Industrial Revolution that South Africa is experiencing as a free and democratic country.

It does not mean, however, that other economical revolutions did not happen in South Africa, and the rest of Africa, in the past; but I will get to this later.

Please note:-

Because the collective areas of land that now form South Africa were colonised in stages, starting in the Cape by the Dutch and later taken over by the British, I will call it, ‘Project Colonise South Africa.’ Industrial Revolution dates are estimates – i.e. the beginning, duration and end of any given industrial revolution is marked by when its sequel is named and recognised – and they serve to identify eras of significant revolutionary innovations in the world. Note that, although different researchers have different dates, they do not vary significantly.

A comparative timeline of the Industrial Revolutions and colonised/apartheid South Africa (extended industrial revolution definition part 1)

* The ‘c.’ before the year means approximately.

First Industrial Revolution (Steam power)

  • The First Industrial Revolution began c.1765 – 113 years after the Dutch colonisers arrived in the Cape in 1652. Project Colonise South Africa started when ships, owned by the Dutch East India Company[i], under the command of Jan van Riebeeck[ii]reached Table Bay in the Cape on the 6th of April 1652.
  • In 1795, 30 years into the First Industrial Revolution, Dutch control of the Cape colony ended when the British Empire occupied the area for the first time. The Dutch were again awarded governance of the Cape for a short period between 1803 and 1806 under the Peace of Amiens. In 1806 the British returned to take occupation of the Cape, after losing their colonies in the Americas during the Napoleonic Wars, and retained control until South Africa was granted independence in 1961.

The Second Industrial Revolution (Electrical power)

  • The duration of the Second Industrial Revolution was from c.1870 to c.1968.
  • Apartheid against native (black) South Africans was formally introduced in 1948 by the National Party when the country became self-governing; although it remained within the confines of the British Commonwealth until 1961.
  • Although apartheid was ‘formally’ introduced, and became policy, in 1948, it does not mean that the colonials did not practice apartheid; each institution is equally guilty of crimes against humanity; it just signifies a change of ownership.
  • Later, still within the timeline of the Second Industrial Revolution, Apartheid South Africa became a sovereign state; in 1961 Britain gave them sovereignty and South Africa became a republic.

Third Industrial Revolution (Digital)

  • The Third Industrial Revolution, also known as the Digital Revolution, started 8 years into sovereign Apartheid South Africa in c.1969.

Democratic South Africa and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

It is unclear as to exactly when in the 2000’s we can pinpoint the start of the Fourth Industrial Revolution but ‘we are in it’, as I’d jokingly say.

From what I can tell, the first articles about the Fourth Industrial Revolution began to appear on Google in about 2016; but I speak under correction on this.

What can be said for certain is that many people have been tracking the mammoth innovations in the 2000s and realise that an Industrial Revolution is definitely coming – i.e. a Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Nevertheless, as you continue to read I will expand on what a revolution is, within my context, and it should become clearer as to why we have graduated to a new Industrial Revolution.

The 4th Industrial Revolution is indeed happening in times of a Democratic South Africa – making it the first of the four Industrial Revolutions to happen post-colonial, and apartheid, South Africa.

[i] Dutch East India Company https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_East_India_Company  (29 April 2021)

[ii] Jan van Riebeeck https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_van_Riebeeck (29 April 2021)