Lagos, Nigeria, February 27, 2024: Managing Director and CEO of Sterling Bank Limited, Mr. Abubakar Suleiman has said it is critical for the government and corporate bodies to pay attention to the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to remain competitive in the emerging global economy.

In a keynote address at the just concluded Innovate AI Conference in Lagos themed “Adapting AI For Nigeria, Crafting Intelligent Solutions for Our Unique Landscape,” Suleiman warned that neglecting AI could jeopardize efforts aimed at enhancing business efficiency and national competitiveness. He said countries and companies failing to embrace AI risk falling behind, as AI-driven technologies offer the potential for significantly higher productivity.

He said, “If we fail to pay attention to artificial intelligence, all our efforts at ease of doing business, national competitiveness will come to nought because those who deploy technology on this scale will be able to deliver higher productivity than we do. And for those of us in the private sector, the same way the country will become less competitive is the same way in which companies that fail to embrace AI will become less competitive and they will die.”

Highlighting the transformative power of AI, Suleiman underscored the need for nations to formulate sovereign AI strategies and foster ecosystems conducive to AI investment. He cautioned against the concentration of AI-driven wealth and power, advocating for intentional efforts to ensure equitable distribution and stability in the future.

He said, “Countries that do not have a sovereign strategy around AI, those that do not have the ecosystem that attract investment in AI, those that do not provide the roadmap for people to develop this technology stand the risk of being carried away.

“If we do not domesticate this tool there is a high risk that while this technology has so much capability to enhance the capability of those who invested in it, those capabilities will be more powerful in reducing global inequality, improving global healthcare and giving access to higher quality education.

“It is true each time there is a major technological breakthrough, there is a shift in wealth and power. Some nations will become more powerful and richer and in most cases, when this power or wealth is concentrated in a few countries it leads to a shift in geo-politics.”

He pondered about what level of control can society exercise over AI and the wealth that comes out of AI. What level of fairness can be guaranteed because the richer the world, the less equitable and unstable the world will eventually become.

There is no way the amount of wealth concentration that is inevitable on account of the changes we are seeing if we are not intentional about re-balancing it, we will face a future that will be less stable for everyone.

Addressing common concerns about AI’s impact on employment, Suleiman urged a shift in perspective, viewing AI not just as a threat to jobs but as a catalyst for innovation and new opportunities. He stressed the potential of AI to reshape human intelligence and questioned the future dynamics between humans and machines in light of AI’s pervasive influence on society.

He asked if the current form of human intelligence will become different simply because everyone now has access to certain level of know-how that will determine their ability to have insight to implement and get outcome that is no longer the same based on the same set of skills that they now have but something else.

Suleiman challenged society to envision a future where access to AI alters traditional notions of intelligence and fundamentally transforms human capabilities. He said, for instance, “There was a time in history that your ability to write and how well you could write was considered as a form of intelligence and it affects how society relates with man.”

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