Across Africa, an increasing number of countries are embracing Artificial Intelligence (AI) investments. In 2014, Africa Heads of State from 32 countries signed what has now become known as the Smart Africa Alliance. The deal was dedicated to identifying priorities and stimulating investment in AI-powered investments. Through the alliance and with the backing of Facebook and Google, the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences has launched a master’s degree in AI. Since then, all around Africa, nations are embracing and investing in AI technologies.
African countries are embracing and investing in AI
In West Africa, Lagos-based Data Science Centre projects to train at least one million Nigerians in data science by 2027. Looking at the east, the Artificial Intelligence Institute was established in Ethiopia in 2020, also to train manpower. From aggrotech mobile apps such as Tumaini App, a crop disease detection tool that can detect symptoms on any part of the crop to healthcare AI systems in Rwanda, Africa is making headway in adopting and reinventing AI.
Granted this advancement has not been solely done by African scientists, it is happening on the content nonetheless. We have the likes of the Canadian company Proto, which provides various AI solutions to African banks such as automated handling of receipt claims in local languages.
In healthcare, Africa is looking to AI for disease detection of problematic illnesses like malaria. AI-backed robots can offer solutions for fast and efficient mass testing of patient samples. The robots take a fraction of the time that it would take numerous lab technicians.
AI applications in Rwanda
Rwanda is looking to invest $76.5 million over the next five years in setting up comprehensive Artificial Intelligence (AI). The country has invested $1.2 million in leveraging AI to boost economic growth and quality of life for its people.
Joris Cyizere, Acting Managing Director at Rwanda’s Centre of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR), also responsible for the development of AI in the country, says Rwanda’s comprehensive AI system and policy aligns well with Kigali’s strategic development priorities. “Rwanda struggles with issues of accessibility and affordability of healthcare. It is also facing ever-rising levels of chronic disease and severe healthcare workforce shortages. AI will help address these challenges,” he said.
Using healthcare as an example, Joris said Rwanda has partnered with the AI development firm, Babylon Holdings, launching an AI-powered triage tool in efforts to digitize healthcare system.
With the AI-enabled systems, the firm handles over 2.6 million registered patients and conducts up to 4,000 consultations every day. Babylon Holdings Babyl is now using AI-powered tool to run a call centre. The initiative is helping nurses work efficiently by making quicker and better decisions about patients.
AI in Ethiopia
Ethiopia is set to establish its first ever Artificial Intelligence Research Centre. The centre is expected to engage in activities that would safeguard the national interests of the East African countries using artificial intelligence services, products and solutions based on research, development and implementation. It is also expected to create conducive environment for start-ups that are working and interested in AI sector.
According to BigCommerce, one of the biggest ecommerce platforms that provides software as a service(SaaS) services to retailers, one of the key trends to observe for Marketplaces in 2023 is Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. To implement these technologies, Marketplaces must first establish a solid foundation and strategy. AI helps improve business outcomes with ready-made intelligence for applications and workflow; whereas Machine Learning aids in pattern recognition and learning. This then begs the need to invest in high quality equipment for Marketplaces. A Marketplace like Gebeya currently boasts of features such as an intelligent matching algorithm that considers a number of factors for a successful talent match.
AI in Kenya
Kenya ranks amongst the top 100 countries ready for artificial intelligence, and 5th in Africa, according to the 2022 Government AI Readiness Index published by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Oxford Insights.
Research conducted recently by Strathmore University’s Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT) on the utilisation of AI in Africa, Kenya has 49 AI applications cutting across 15 sectors.
Alfred Ongere, founder of consulting company Ai Kenya says that Artificial Intelligence, like any other technology, has both pros and cons and the difference lies in how it is deployed. “Yes, the fears are founded. However, they are just opinions that would still be shared by sceptics based on how they see technology advancing. It plays to a global context…any economy that is heavily dependent on the internet to survive, and Kenya is one of them,” he says. “Its adoption can grow the country’s economy. For instance, in the health sector, AI has been resourceful in the detection of diseases, in agriculture, it has provided means for early detection of crop diseases, in fintech, it has enabled the unbanked population to access fast short-term loans, and in education, it has provided students with personalised learning resources,” points out Mr Ongera.
Partnerships to leverage AI in Nigeria
In Nigeria, telemedicine providers are leveraging AI-powered solutions to rapidly improve remote healthcare delivery.
Nigerian telemedicine start-up LaFiya Telehealth partnered with Canada-based NuraLogix which provides a contactless, smartphone-based vital signs monitoring service. The service uses patented transdermal optical imaging technology to analyze patients’ health indicators including heart rate, blood pressure and stress levels. LaFiya has integrated the service into its offerings, enabling access for patients in Nigeria.
LaFiya Telehealth also partnered with Israel-based company TytoCare to provide patients with kits that facilitate more precise diagnosis during virtual consultations. TytoCare’s home kits include an AI-powered device for on-demand medical exams which provide doctors with key health data during consultations.
Innovators are also widening their scope for public health impact through strategic plays. For instance, Nigerian health-tech start-up WellaHealth acquired Wellvis, a local telemedicine provider, to enable virtual consultations for users as part of its service offerings. Wellahealth has also expanded its micro-insurance health coverage offering to include chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and sickle cell disease.
The new State of AI in Africa Report created by the AI Media Group from South Africa, offers an analytical insight into the growing Artificial Intelligence (AI) sector in Africa, a topic that has not been fully explored up until now. The unique report contains statistics and trends, offering an in-depth look at key factors and communities driving the ecosystem across the continent.
According to the report there are now over 30 AI / Deep Tech communities in the Africa region providing a range of services and attracting “wannabe learners, entrepreneurs and job seekers allied to a growing range of vendor based programmes supporting the creation of AI / Deep Tech solutions.”
AI’s development in Africa is attracting huge amounts of resources and funds, with Tunisian AI start-up InstaDeep receiving $100m USD funding earlier in 2022. The global market is also projected to grow from $387 Bn USD in 2022 to $1,394 Bn by 2029, exhibiting a CAGR of 20%.
The future of AI in Africa is very promising due to the continent’s vast potential for technological advancement. AI has the potential to be used in all areas of development, from healthcare and education, to agriculture and finance, as well as creating innovative solutions to global problems. Africa’s innovation has been highlighted in many areas, such as the continent’s leadership in mobile payments and vast potentials in artificial intelligence and machine learning. As countries across Africa develop new strategies to embrace the benefits of AI and build technical capacities, the continent will continue to drive innovation in digital transformation. AI can help African countries respond faster to needs in the workforce, healthcare, finance, and more; as well as to drive economic growth and development.