At the “AI-Driving Digital Divide and the Future of African Economies,” webinar during the United Nations AI for Good Global Summit this year, African artificial intelligence leaders debated whether or not the continent is ready for the next step.
“We are ready for the next wave,” assured Alex Tsado, Co-Founder and Board Chair at Alliance4ai, according to a news article posted on the ITU website. With the increasing rise in tech hubs across Africa, the panelist spoke exhaustively on the bountiful opportunities that the continent is creating for tech entrepreneurs. But entrepreneurs should not be so quick to take the leap warns Data Science and Artificial Intelligence Leader and founder of Rise Networks, Toyosi Akerele-Ogunsiji. “First, countries across Africa need to take stock…What are the technology priorities as individual nations and as a continent?” she asked.
Director of the Machine Intelligence Institute Of Africa (MIIA) John Kamara says that Africa is ready to build solutions to assuage the problems of bigger economies like America. “There is no reason why we can’t have AI companies from Africa building AI solutions that can sell in America. There’s no reason why we can’t do the same in Europe and anywhere else,” he said.
But the government also has to play the key role of developing policies around AI. “Policymakers [need] to make sure that we develop AI policy in different countries in Africa,” said Stella Tembisa Ndabeni-Abrahams, Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies in the Republic Of South Africa.
Investment into AI also has to start for the continent to move deeper into the Fourth Industrial Revolution. “The future of Africa is right where its children are – and everything else, like AI and ourselves, can only survive by investing well in [them],” said Mmantsetsa Marope, Director, UNESCO-IBE.
But at the core, there is space for tech entrepreneurs to invest in the continent. “I think that while there’s still a lot of challenges for startups in Africa … in terms of raising capital and market opportunities. At the same time, there’s a space for a startup to succeed,” said Celina Lee, Co-Founder and CEO at Zindi Africa.