Commentary: AI presents opportunities for social innovation & economic transformation in Africa

Author: Lexi Novitske, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Published on: 26 February 2018

"The AI Invasion if coming to Africa (and it's a good thing)," 12 February 2018

In Africa... the dawn of AI carries with it a fear of falling further behind more-developed economies... but Africa need not dread the age of robotics and automation. Across the continent, from Ghana to Zimbabwe, this technology has the potential to bring myriad positive changes in sectors such as health care and finance, bridging the gap between physical infrastructure inadequacies and consumer demands, while freeing up more time for skilled labor and increased labor productivity. For Africans to reap these benefits, African governments, investors, and NGOs must prepare for the fourth industrial revolution’s transformation of the modern workplace by training workers for complex tasks, and reforming laws and education to meet the demands of tomorrow. 

... In countries like Nigeria and Kenya, where capital is scarce but ideas are abundant, process automation can enable businesses to run on leaner models. Moreover, rather than displacing employees, machines can empower low-skilled workers and equip them to take on more-complex responsibilities... AI can also protect workers. Robots such as South Korea’s DRC-Hubo help safeguard employees by going into dangerous spaces in mines and nuclear plants... AI could also alleviate Nigeria’s 1:4,000 doctor-to-patient ratio... [G]overnment leaders must fully understand the advantages and consequences of AI disruption in Africa, and then deliberately respond to AI integration. Two areas of focus should be encouraging a transparent and dynamic regulatory environment, and implementing extensive education reform from primary school through university. Regulation around AI must be transparent to encourage innovation while simultaneously providing guidelines in line with international best practices. [also refers to Aajoh, Facebook, HSBC, Skype, Volley, Zipline]

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Related companies: Facebook HSBC Microsoft Skype (part of Microsoft) Volley Zipline