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African ministers adopts landmark AI strategy to drive digitalization

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A group of African ICT and Communications ministers has achieved a consensus on a continental framework for embracing artificial intelligence (AI) to solve a raft of developmental issues.

In a press release by the African Union (AU), the new consensus paved the way for the Continental AI Strategy to spearhead Africa’s adoption of the emerging technology. Over 130 Ministers and experts converged for a virtual two-day session to chart a new adoption course for the continent.

A quick overview of the document reveals a desire by the ICT ministers to roll out safe AI systems and solutions for the continent’s 1.4 billion people. To achieve this, the ministers are pushing for local AI solutions without a total reliance on Western AI models to cater to the unique challenges of the continent.

Apart from being “African-owned,” the strategy pursues inclusivity as a cardinal point for AU member states. Countries are encouraged to interface with their general populations before launching their local AI rules to increase adoption levels while remaining focused on practical solutions.

“As we aim to create an inclusive AI ecosystem and a competitive African AI market that is adapted to our realities and meets our ambitions, we believe examining and approving this strategy will provide a common vision and path to accelerate responsible AI innovation,” said AU Commissioner for Infrastructure Dr. Amani Abou-Zeid.

The Strategy explored potential use cases for AI on the continent, focusing on education and skills acquisition. There are ambitious plans to introduce AI in agriculture, manufacturing, and finance to improve productivity levels across the continent without leaving any country behind.

Although the continent lags behind other regions in AI, the ministers are optimistic that Africa can close the gap between it and North America, Europe, and Asia. The continent will focus on deepening the local talent pool to support local firms and global players looking to set up shop on the continent.

“For us Africans, Artificial Intelligence presents tremendous opportunities,” added Abou-Zeid. “It is a driving force for positive transformational positive change as well as economic growth and social progress.”

Nigeria takes the lead

Before the release of the continental AI strategy, Nigeria seized the initiative to embrace AI, searching for top researchers to contribute to a development framework for the country. At the time, Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy Bosun Tijani confirmed that the researchers should ideally be of Nigerian descent.

The country has racked up early wins with AI, including a tentative partnership with the U.S. focused on the digital economy using a clutch of emerging technologies. Despite making local moves, Nigeria’s regulators firmly focus on the international space to ensure uniform regulations across the board.

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