How to realize Africa’s $1.5 trillion AI opportunity


How to realize Africa’s $1.5 trillion AI opportunity. From September 4-9, 2018, Accra, Ghana, will host Deep Learning Indaba (DLI), Africa’s flagship Artificial Intelligence (AI) event, attracting the continent’s top AI I practitioners, students, policymakers, and enthusiasts.

Sponsored by industry heavyweights like InstaDeep, OpenAI, Google DeepMind, and Nvidia, DLI highlights the significance of Africa’s talent and ideas to the global AI ecosystem. DLI provides African leaders with an opportunity to showcase the successes of the continent’s AI ecosystem and to mobilize the technical and financial resources necessary to materialize its full potential in conjunction with other upcoming events such as the UN General Assembly, the Africa-US Presidential Forum on STEM/AI, and the UK Global AI Safety Summit.

While still modest in size, Africa’s AI ecosystem is seeing rapid expansion. Recent progress has hastened the creation of infrastructure and legislation, and a talented community is constantly developing innovative new applications. Entrepreneurs, researchers, and legislators all see the potential in this area and actively seek ways to capitalize on it.

However, there are several obstacles. While not all African nations have the same problems, many have inadequate power grids, poor or nonexistent internet access, and a nascent information technology (IT) environment. The high cost of internet connectivity and computer gear, a lack of data, and a shortage of sophisticated technical skills are just some obstacles that might stifle the ecosystem’s growth before it gets started.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) estimates that Africa may develop an AI economy worth $1.5 trillion. To provide greater services to more people at cheaper costs, strategic nations should learn how to appropriately utilize era-defining technology like AI. African leaders may use the opportunity presented by the current international focus on AI to gather the necessary resources to make this a reality.

Three approaches to rapidly improving Africa’s AI

African leaders should prioritize three attainable tasks to speed up the continent’s ecosystem at meetings like DLI:

1. Building alliances for talent development;

2. Facilitating increased access to computing resources, and

3. Launching meaningful AI pilot projects. Let me explain.

Strengthening the environment for talent

Africa is making significant strides to cultivate home-grown talent in advanced engineering, one of the most vital aspects of an AI ecosystem. Artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly a focus at several African colleges. Workers are being retrained and reskilled thanks to boot camps and other programs concentrating on artificial intelligence. IBM, Google, and Microsoft are just a few of the technology giants building research laboratories throughout Africa to take advantage of the continent’s burgeoning artificial intelligence (AI) and other developing technology sectors.

These measures, however, are insufficient. The newest Global Skills Report from Coursera finds that African nations do poorly on technological and data science competence measures.

Africa has the youngest population in the world. Thus, its leaders should prioritize creating efficient partnerships for training everyone. These may model themselves on the US-India AI Initiative, which has provided Indians with seminars, roundtables, resources, and financing to facilitate bilateral cooperation in artificial intelligence. Motivated by this, the two parties may collaborate on initiatives like offering scholarships, hosting seminars for the general public, or educating the public about artificial intelligence.

Right now, you can access the infrastructure needed to support AI.
Numerous recent advancements have stood out in the realms of cloud computing, information technology, and data infrastructure in Africa. The debuts of the African Supercomputing Centre and Toubkal, the most powerful supercomputer in Africa, are especially noteworthy. The public cloud is expected to increase at a compounded annual rate of 17–20% throughout the continent, which is expected to continue.

Several groups are working to advance open data principles and digitally transform public services. However, many scientists and business owners still lack easy computer access, and high-quality information is sometimes hard to get. While investing in Africa’s digital infrastructure for the long term is important, getting computers into people’s hands and onto their desks is an immediate need. If African leaders do not quickly improve their access to computer resources, they risk restricting innovation and product offers and losing talented workers to other countries. African governments should encourage public-private partnerships for more people to have computer access right now. Using computers in these collaborations should emphasize the development of strategic competitiveness in AI applications with local significance.

Data science training and computational resources for the national statistics offices of 10 African nations, thanks to new cooperation between Nvidia, UNECA, the Global Cooperation for Sustainable Development Data, and Future Tech, is a positive development. However, it does not go into sufficient detail. The public sector and educational institutions, training programs, and tech hubs may benefit from increased collaboration with cloud and computer providers to expand computer access and education opportunities.

Prominent AI-based pilot programs

The governments of Malawi, Ghana, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone have all lately made statements indicating their willingness and interest in adopting AI responsibly across the continent. Across the continent, governments are increasingly supporting AI use cases. These tools help advance society by improving access to public services and fostering innovation in the private sector.

African leaders should be encouraged to continue advocating for broader responsible use of AI by looking to successful businesses like Zipline, a drone medical delivery service used in Ghana and Rwanda driven by AI, and Novissi, a financial transfer tool powered by AI in Togo. One example that may be investigated is Singapore’s new agreement with Google Cloud, which provides two sandboxes for government agencies and enterprises to create and test generative AI applications.

Based on this paradigm, we at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change have created a toolbox to aid African countries in spotting opportunities for usage and collaboration.

Defeating Obstacles

Artificial intelligence is not the silver bullet Africa needs. A chance to solve some of its problems, speed up its progress, and reach its full potential as a global tech player is presented by this, though. There is leadership enthusiasm, and the African Union is working on an AI strategy for Africa. The global focus on AI and this week’s highly anticipated gathering of leading AI companies and practitioners at Deep Learning Indaba can help African leaders expedite the growth of the continent’s AI ecosystem as they develop a continent-wide AI plan.


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