The Future of AI in Africa

Original article was published by Alliance4ai Africa on Artificial Intelligence on Medium


The Future of AI in Africa

(photo courtesy UNESCO: https://en.unesco.org/general-history-africa)

Let’s start with what AI is. This is a branch of data science that allows machines to undertake repetitive tasks. Additionally, AI has the capability of adapting through progressive learning algorithms.

I often ask myself, does Africa need Artificial Intelligence? If yes, do we have the capacity?

Before we talk about Africa and AI, let’s look at where we’ve come from. I have since learnt the importance the appreciating our history; how the different revolutions took place and Africa’s contribution to that up to and until getting us to the 4IR.

Africa has a rich heritage as can be proved with the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Sudano-Sahelian architecture of West Africa and the use the use of fractal scaling; these are small parts of the structure that tend to look similar to larger parts. Below are examples.

Fractal scaling is the heart of African design. Fractals are seen in swirling patterns produced by computer graphics and have important modelling tools in the field of natural sciences.

African cultural heritage springs from different communities all over Africa. The common characteristics that are prevalent is upholding of morality. African heritage is keen on the moral values such as love, respect, hard work and good relations within communities and with foreigners.

There were also key African figures traditionally who stood out for their contribution towards modernising Africanism while still maintaining its integrity. These are such as Mansa Musa, the richest man ever, Kwame Nkrumah, for promoting the African Union, Patrice Lumumba, a martyr of the African cause and Wangari Maathai, the fierce forest protector and first African woman to win the Nobel Prize among others.

Now to the future…..

As we’ve seen, there’s a lot of good in Africa. There is a rich moral and cultural history, showing that Africans are well adapted both consciously and unconsciously, making them capable of adopting any form advancement in technology while applying the traditional tenets.

For Africa to successfully embrace AI, our governments must consciously harness the power of AI to help communities grow. Africa’s technology industry is rapidly growing. There has been a massive growth in technology hubs across the continent, now over 400 in number, and including one backed by Google in Ghana.

There needs to be a comprehensive blue print to guide the AI strategy. This is in addition to providing infrastructure through funding start-ups, building research facilities and also enhancing skills and knowledge in its citizenry. Talent has been underutilized from a global perspective but modern technology has allowed people to work and study remotely. The basics however, must first be addressed. i.e. digitising data.

Governments should also review their laws, policies and legal frameworks to support data-driven technologies and innovation-driven growth. There should also be partnerships between the public and private sectors as collaboration will foster accelerated adoption of technology.

There are many areas where AI can make a difference in Africa such as in health, agriculture, finance, research, education and easing traffic congestion. Coming closer home, I have seen it used to give recommendations of products for customers based on their behaviour who are then sent personalised campaigns. This promotes marketing and increases the chances of a business making better sales.

Lastly, as with any successful individual or organisation a strong personal brand goes a long way in getting you noticed. It is the backbone of your identity and reputation. For any organisation hoping to get into AI, they must identify values that will endear to the customers they wish to serve. This may be such as integrity, service or accountability among others. A good brand will build confidence in your customers.

Article by: Samantha Keeru

Alliance4ai Learning Community