As the Deep Learning Indaba takes place in Accra, Bridget Boakye of the Tony Blair Institute outlines three steps African leaders must take to accelerate the continent's ecosystem.
Africa's leading artificial intelligence (AI) professionals, students, policymakers and enthusiasts are gathering from September 4 to 9 in Accra, Ghana, for the Deep Learning Indaba (DLI), Africa's leading AI event.
Reflecting the importance of Africa's talent and ideas to the global AI ecosystem, the DLI is sponsored by leading AI companies including InstaDeep, OpenAI, Google DeepMind and Nvidia. Along with other upcoming events such as the United Nations General Assembly, the Africa-U.S. Presidential Forum. On STEM/AI and the UK Global AI Security Summit, the DLI provides an opportunity for African leaders to highlight the achievements of the continent's AI ecosystem and mobilize the technical and financial resources needed to realize their Maximum potential.
The AI ecosystem in Africa may be small, but it is growing rapidly. Advances in recent years have accelerated infrastructure and policy development, while a vibrant community of talent is building exciting new applications. Entrepreneurs, academics and policymakers understand the opportunity and are determined to explore ways to harness its potential.
However, challenges abound.
African countries are not a monolithic bloc, but they mostly face persistent infrastructure constraints due to power grid deficits, limited internet connectivity and divisions, and an immature information technology ecosystem. This, along with specific challenges to AI adoption, such as expensive internet access and computing hardware, scarcity of data, and low availability of advanced technical skills, threaten to hinder the development of the ecosystem before it takes off.
According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECLAC), the opportunity is enormous: Africa has the potential to build a $1.5 trillion AI economy. Strategic states that properly harness the technologies that define this era, such as AI, can fundamentally transform how they deliver better quality services to more people at a lower cost. The global focus on AI provides African leaders with the opportunity to mobilize the resources needed to realize this vision.
Three ways to accelerate African AI
At leadership gatherings like the DLI, African leaders should prioritize three actionable activities to accelerate the continent's ecosystem: 1. forge partnerships for talent development; 2. facilitate greater access to computing resources; and 3. launch impactful AI pilot projects. Here are more details.
Advance the talent ecosystem
Advanced engineering talent is one of the most crucial factors in an AI ecosystem, and Africa is taking important steps to foster local talent. African universities now offer degrees or specializations in AI. AI training programs and intensive training courses are also being implemented. Tech companies such as IBM, Google and Microsoft are increasingly looking to Africa to find talent in AI and other emerging technologies, as well as opening research labs across the continent.
Access to the infrastructure of the AI era, now
There have been many notable recent developments in the cloud, computing and data infrastructure landscape in Africa. The launches of Toubkal, Africa's most powerful supercomputer, and the African Supercomputing Center are especially exciting. Cloud penetration continues to grow across the continent, with compound annual growth forecasts of 17-201TP3Q for public cloud.
Leading AI Pilot Projects
Leaders from Malawi, Ghana, Rwanda and Sierra Leone have recently expressed openness and enthusiasm for the responsible adoption of AI in Africa. AI use cases across the continent are growing, often facilitated by government leadership. These applications are not only beneficial for economic and technological growth, but also for the provision of public services and the acceleration of development.
Article source: African business