- However, Africa is still lagging in understanding the value that AI can offer.
- One of the most crucial factors is the need to invest in local solutions, build capacity, and consume locally-made products.
Africa is a continent of vast potential and promise, boasting the world's youngest population and is projected to become the largest continent by 2100.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), characterized by the convergence of technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and the Internet of Things, presents an opportunity for Africa to leapfrog development and transform its economies.
As an AI champion and founder of the AI Centre of Excellence Africa, I am passionate about bridging the gap in how Africa interacts with technology.
I firmly believe that by investing in local solutions, building capacity, and consuming locally-made products, Africa can become a producer and owner of technology infrastructure, not just a consumer.
The adoption and integration of AI can help overcome the challenges facing the continent, such as poverty, unemployment, and lack of access to quality healthcare and education among many other things.
However, Africa is still lagging in understanding the value that AI can offer.
One of the most crucial factors is the need to invest in local solutions, build capacity, and consume locally-made products.
Africa must become a producer and owner of technology infrastructure, not just a consumer.
Despite the global AI frenzy, Africa is still behind in understanding the value that AI can offer.
To bridge this gap, we need to invest in AI and data science talent to build qualitative human capital that can have a massive impact on foreign direct investment (FDI).
There is a significant need for creating a data-driven ecosystem with innovation at its core and education as a fundamental value to drive participation.
Governments must invest in educating the public sector, as this is critical to shifting the needle in this transformation journey.
AI is a complex and interdisciplinary field, and creating a skilled workforce in Africa requires targeted investments in training and education.
Additionally, forging collaborations between start-ups and the private sector is critical to co-create value, drive investment, and accelerate the adoption of local solutions into the ecosystem.
The private sector brings capital, expertise, and networks that are essential to scaling and commercializing AI solutions.
Start-ups, on the other hand, bring innovation, agility, and risk-taking abilities that can create disruptive solutions to address Africa's unique challenges.
Digitization of the informal sector can provide a great opportunity for effective data collection that can be built in interoperable manners, allowing for the free flow of data across various sectors for deep learning and AI modelling.
This can provide valuable insights for policymakers and businesses, leading to better decision-making and more effective policy interventions.
Several African countries, including Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Rwanda, Ghana, Egypt, and Senegal, are already leading the conversation and change.
In the healthcare sector, AI is helping doctors and clinicians make more accurate diagnoses and predictions, leading to improved patient outcomes.
AI-based diagnostic tools are being used to identify diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria, which are prevalent in Africa.
AI is also helping to monitor the spread of infectious diseases such as Ebola and Covid-19, enabling governments to take proactive measures to control their spread.
In the healthcare sector, AI-based solutions are helping to improve access to healthcare in remote areas and reducing the cost of healthcare delivery.
For example, in Nigeria, Life Bank is using AI to optimize blood supply chains and improve access to blood transfusions.
In Kenya, Afya Rekod is using AI to provide patient-centric care, optimizing data for disease management and quality healthcare delivery.
In agriculture, AI is being used to improve crop yields and adapt to climate change.
By analysing vast amounts of data, AI can provide insights into optimal planting times, soil conditions, and weather patterns.
This is helping farmers make more informed decisions and improving their livelihoods.
For example, in Kenya, Farm. ink is using AI to provide personalized farming advice to smallholder farmers, helping them to improve yields and reduce crop losses.
In South Africa, Aerobotics is using AI and machine learning to analyse satellite imagery and provide farmers with insights on crop health and yield.
Africa has the resources and talent to create an ethical AI ecosystem that can teach the rest of the world something new.
However, achieving this will require sustained investments in AI research and development, education and training, and digital infrastructure.
The growth of African AI companies, such as Zindi, Instadeep, and AICE, is a great start, but much more needs to be done to accelerate growth.
AI must become an essential part of the African agenda for sustainable growth, and all key players must come to the table to ensure that Africa is not left out of another industrial revolution.
With the right policies, collaborations, and investments in education, local solutions and talent development, activated timely, Africa can unlock its potential and emerge as a leader in the global AI industry.
The writer is the founder of the AI Center of Excellence Africa