A vibrant African AI Ecosystem is emerging in Africa,participants at the inaugural Artificial Intelligence for Development (AI4Dev) workshop at Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya stated.
The AI workshop, whose theme was “Toward a Network of Excellence in Artificial Intelligence for Development in Sub-Saharan Africa” brought participants from various parts of the world.
This workshop saw the gathering of sixty African and global experts who discussed and demonstrated the rapid pace at which Artificial Intelligence is being developed on the African continent.
Group Chief Marketing Officer of the Cortex Group, Dr Nick Bradshaw said the meeting aimed to support and propel the pace at which Africa’s AI Ecosystem is evolving. “This emerging ‘network of excellence’ of Machine Learning and AI practitioners and researchers is building a collaborative roadmap for AI Development in Africa,” he said.
“We work across multiple business and industry domains seeking to augment and automate legacy processes, ultimately transforming them into intelligent systems, using the Cortex Logic AI Engine. We leverage a unique AI Engine for Business that solves strategic and operationally relevant problems by unlocking the value offered by the 4th Industrial Revolution and by mobilizing Data Science, Internet of Things (IoT), as well as Big Data and Analytics”, added Dr Bradshaw.
According to the participants, a vibrant African AI Ecosystem is emerging from initiatives such as the Machine Intelligence Institute of Africa (MIIA), Deep Learning Indaba, African Institute for Mathematical Science (AIMS), AI Expo Africa, Data Science Africa, Women+ in Machine Learning and Data Science (WIMLDS), to name a few – all of which aim to strengthen Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence in Africa.
The three-day workshop focused on three critical areas, being policy and regulations, skills and capacity building, and the application of AI in Africa. It served as a truly integrated event where Africa’s key thought leaders and organizations, driving the AI Agenda in Africa, met and exchanged ideas on local actions for embracing and applying AI for social and economic benefit.”
From the diverse range of thoughts expressed during the workshop, all unanimously agreed that, firstly, diversity via inclusivity of traditionally marginalized communities must be prioritized within Africa’s emerging AI Ecosystem.
Secondly, there’s also a need to extend the AI Network of Excellence conversation to Francophone and Portuguese-speaking countries on the African continent. Lastly, understanding the contextual differences in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, more so in places where AI is still a foreign concept, will also allow for tailored and localized strategies and engagement to be developed and deployed.
Dr Jacques Ludik, recipient of the AI Leader of the Year 2019 Award and Founder, Group CEO and Managing Director of Cortex Logic, said, “Africa can truly benefit from leveraging cutting-edge Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies and connecting with like-minded individuals and entities along the way. We, as a community, need to identify gaps in the Ecosystem in order to create an AI pipeline for growth – all of which starts with creating platforms for sustainable relationships to be developed between academia, investment, government, entrepreneurs, and other key industry players.”
Dr Ludik continued, “The mission of MIIA is to help establish and foster these relationships, thereby creating a strong, innovative Machine Intelligence and Data Science community in Africa. We want to help transform Africa and shape the Ecosystem, by bringing together and networking with the critical mass of resources, by promoting and sponsoring key learning activities, as well as through the strengthening of scientific and technological excellence, mentoring and collaboration on the continent.
To this end, MIIA has recently launched AIAfrica.wiki, which serves as a comprehensive country-level review of AI and Machine Learning resources, stakeholders and projects in Africa.”
The enriching and collaborative dialogue, currently taking place, is building a solid foundation for the research and innovation agenda in Africa. Progress on this agenda will depend on the collective wisdom and action of multiple stakeholders within the AI Network to hone and support this vision. We will continue to engage with partners and key industry players to help shape the African AI Ecosystem.