- Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to revolutionize Africa’s climate-smart agriculture initiatives.
- Nigeria’s Data Science Centre in Lagos projects to train over one million Nigerians in data science by 2027.
- Rwanda is looking to invest $76.5 million over the next five years in setting up comprehensive AI ecosystem.
Across Africa, an increasing number of countries are embracing Artificial Intelligence (AI) investments. AI is programming that provides machines the ability to think, learn and act on their own.
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
Further, Lagos-based Data Science Centre projects to train at least one million Nigerians in data science by 2027. In Ethiopia, the Artificial Intelligence Institute that was established in 2020, also to train manpower.
“We don’t want our young people to just watch from afar and adopt what the rest of the world has produced. If the continent was not able to take its full place during the last industrial revolutions, this time it will be different, we promise,” Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said the Africa CEO Forum in 2022.
From aggrotech mobile apps such as Nigeria’s Afrix Tech, an app that recognizes diseases and pests from photographs and videos provided by farmers to healthcare AI systems in Rwanda, Africa is making headway in adopting and reinventing AI.
Granted this advancement is not been solely done by African scientists. But it is happening on the content nonetheless. You 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.
Read also:: Artificial Intelligence boost to Africa’s infrastructural development
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 is the Acting Managing Director at Rwanda’s Centre of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR). And hes is responsible for the development of AI in the country. He 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 investment in healthcare system
“The tool helps nurses ask patients the right questions, and collect necessary information about a patient’s symptoms,” Cyizere says.
According to the expert, integrating the AI tools into the existing healthcare system is proving critical in improving the quality and accessibility of healthcare in Rwanda.
“The solution is now used to ensure follow-up appointments are conducted seamlessly. The patient information collected on the system is passed on to the doctor, saving both the clinician and the patient time,” he explains.
Yes, the benefits are evident, however, the expert cautions on the need for adherence to strong ethical principles of using AI, from strategy inception to operational implementation.
“No one has the right answer to what might be the likely effects, especially to the ordinary workforce. But we can see that technology is growing a lot and our task is to deliberate on how we make this fair,” he explains.
Cyizere holds that AI also has the capability to close the existing gender gap. This, he notes, is by handling more domestic chores, tasks that are often left to women. By so doing, AI will serve to allow women more time, which that they can use in other economic activities.
Supporting this view, research by the World Economic Forum (WEF) shows that AI handling domestic chores would certainly close the prevalent gender gap in Africa.
“With the adoption of AI, about 40 percent of time spent on domestic chores could be automated within a decade,” the report predicts.
According to the WEF’s Global Gender Gap Report 2022 research findings, advancements in automation will see AI technology run robots and handle a significant proportion of domestic chores that would otherwise be the task of women.
Domestic chores could be automated
In the report, a panel of AI experts estimate that an average of 39 percent of the time spent on conducting an individual domestic task could be automated. As a result a major societal impact for women will be realised across Africa.
“Working-age adults spend similar amounts of time on this unpaid domestic work as they do on paid work,” note the experts and that being the case, they conclude that the same amount of time and effort that goes into the unpaid domestic tasks could be put into revenue generating activities.
“Household chores are also disproportionately carried out by women. Therefore, automation of these tasks could lead to significant social and economic consequences. More time, particularly that of women, could be freed up for social, leisure and paid work,” the WEF research has shown.
Without AI intervention, the WEF report warns that “…at our current rate of progress, it will be another 132 years before there is parity between men and women.”
Read also: AI shows potential in climate-smart agriculture mechanization in Africa
Benefits of deploying AI systems
Reducing human error
- Zero errors in task execution (if programmed correctly).
- Save time and resources.
- Guaranteeing accurate and efficient results.
Automation of repetitive tasks
- Free human time for creative tasks.
- Handle data collection, data entry, email responses, software testing, invoice generation and basic administrative tasks.
Manage big data
- AI-using algorithms can handle big data in much less time.
- Review huge content data to extract relevant information.
- Process collected data and provide interpretation.
- Facilitate quick decision-making when large data interpretation is involved.
Omitting risk to human life
- Security cases e.g. defusing a bomb, going to space, deep ocean research.
- Humans are productive for only about 3 to 4 hours in a day and need regular breaks, AI can work endlessly without breaks e.g. online customer support chatbots.
- AI is developing new innovations e.g. healthcare early breast cancer detection.