Image source: Telecom Review Africa

Across the globe, artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a transformative force that extends beyond the boundaries of the tech ecosystem, attracting attention and generating buzz.

In  Africa, entrepreneurs, researchers, and organizations are beginning to harness the power of AI to tackle unique challenges and drive impactful change. From healthcare to agriculture, education to finance,  the continent is witnessing the influence of AI across diverse sectors, fostering sustainable development and empowering communities.

“AI can help people flourish, and promote social cohesion and prosperity. It can also help people to suffer and stress less,” said Favour Borokokini, PhD student at Horizon CDTat the first edition of moonshot conversations by TechCabal.

However, to fully unleash the potential of AI in Africa, a comprehensive strategy is required that addresses unique challenges and ensures inclusivity at every step. A coherent long-term vision and plan for the use of the technology as well as policies that balances out the risks of these technologies is important in ensuring that these machine learning models are equitable, inclusive, and valuable.

What is a starting point for building AI infrastructure for Africa?

An important step towards developing an effective roadmap for AI in Africa is addressing the data problem on the continent. In an era where data fuels the advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), Africa faces a unique challenge: the scarcity and quality of data. The continent’s diverse and dynamic contexts, coupled with limited data availability, pose obstacles to the development and deployment of AI-driven solutions tailored to Africa’s specific needs. Investing in data collection and tailoring ML algorithms to local contexts will lead to more accurate predictions, targeted interventions, and improved decision-making across sectors. 

As AI continues to advance, it raises important ethical questions about the use of personal data and the potential for bias in AI systems. Although we’ve seen far-reaching legislations like the AI Act by Europe and efforts of The African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) on The African Union Artificial Intelligence Continental Strategy for Africa, It is clear that there is a growing concern for regulations on the development and use of AI to bolster the responsible development and deployment of AI in Africa.

There is also a place for legislation that ensures reskilling and retraining programmes to ensure social and economic equality. New technologies always cause disruption and can cause loss of livelihood. “How do we ensure that we are reskilling people who lose their jobs?” asked Favour Borokini.

Lastly, building AI awareness through education initiatives about AI’s capabilities, benefits, and limitations will foster a culture of AI literacy at the business and consumer levels.  AI education and training programmes must be incorporated into school curriculums and the workforce. “A normal front desk officer should be able to understand what AI is about,”  as explained by Oluwabunmi Borokinni, programmes lead at Immersive Tech Africa, said.

Like Tawanda Ewing said, “AI is more of an augmentation than a replacement for jobs.” With AI, we have an opportunity to leapfrog progress and harness technology for sustainable development to shape the future of the continent. By nurturing talent, fostering collaboration, and scaling impactful initiatives, Africa is poised to be at the forefront of AI innovation, shaping a brighter future for its people and leaving an indelible mark on the global AI landscape.
Moonshot by TechCabal will convene the most audacious players—founders, business leaders, startups, enterprise companies—building Africa’s dynamic tech scene to network, collaborate, share ideas/insights, and celebrate innovation on the continent. To join the waitlist, click here.

Victoria Olaonipekun Junior Projects/Events Associate

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