The central theme at Africa Tech Week, held at Century City, Cape Town, was artificial intelligence (AI). Although AI has been a big subject at most tech events in South Africa over the past year, this particular AI focus had a different feel to it in that government, corporates, and startups at the event seemed to have more refined AI strategies, compared to a few months ago.

Giving a keynote address to the 300 attendees in the dimly lit Century City conference centre, South Africa’s communications and digital technologies minister, Mondli Gungubele, said that the country’s journey to catching up with the rest of the world on AI was a long but promising one. 

Speaking to TechCabal afterwards, Gungubele added that the South African government was mostly concerned with providing a rigid regulatory framework to enable AI innovators to prosper in the country. “We want to sit back and allow startups to build local AI products and are currently putting together the requisite framework to enable this,” Gungumele said.

For Nedbank, one of South Africa’s leading commercial banks with over 7 million customers, their AI play focuses on leveraging the power of AI predictive analysis instead of generative AI, the current shiny thing. “We have been using predictive analysis over the last decade to offer self-service products to our customers, and currently, we are thinking of using generative AI to hyper-personalise our offerings,” said Chipo Mushwana, executive for payments & technology at Nedbank.

Mukuru, one of southern Africa’s leading cross-border payment providers and with over 16 million customers on the continet, is already implementing several AI use cases across the company. According to Andy Jury, CEO of Mukuru, the use cases range from internally within the company to externally in the customer’s engagement with agents and users. “We use AI to predict our working capital requirements, improve our agents’ customer service capabilities, and also help our developers code more efficiently,” Jury told TechCabal.

Unlike a few months ago when most government, corporates and startups’ comments on how they are using AI sounded like PR speak, this has changed. The government is clear on the need for an AI-enabling regulatory framework, corporates like Nedbank are seeing value in alternative AI use cases like predictive analysis while startups like Mukuru are expanding their AI use cases to their agent networks to improve efficiency.

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