Artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a transformative technology with the potential to revolutionize many aspects of our lives, including healthcare, transportation, communication, entertainment, agriculture, and many more. Bill Gates recently published a seven-page article and emphatically stated that the AI age has begun, further stating that AI is as revolutionary as mobile phones and the internet. While the impact of AI is being felt worldwide, I believe it has the potential to be particularly transformative in Africa, where it could help address many of the continent’s most pressing challenges.
Forbes predicted that Africa is the next frontier of technology in the world and further described it as a tech hub on the rise. This is gradually taking shape as seven tech unicorns have already arisen on the continent; more tech startups and products are being developed and funding on the continent surpassed $3 Billion in 2022. The foundations have been laid, more young people are studying and venturing into tech roles, and I believe there couldn’t have been a better time than this for the continent to ready itself for an AI revolution across multiple sectors of our economy.
One area where AI is already having an impact globally and I believe will be of great benefit in Africa is healthcare. Africa faces many health challenges, including a shortage of healthcare professionals and limited access to medical facilities in many regions. AI has the potential to help address these challenges by enabling more accurate diagnoses, better treatment recommendations, and improved patient outcomes. For example, AI-powered medical imaging analysis has been shown to improve cancer detection rates, while predictive analytics can help identify patients at risk of developing certain diseases.
Another critical sector I expect AI to bring massive improvement to in Africa is agriculture. Though Africa has 60% of the worlds uncultivated arable land, we remain net importers of food. Food insecurity is a menace on the continent and with the advent of AI, all this can change. Agriculture is a critical sector in many African countries, employing millions of people and providing food for millions more. However, many farmers in Africa face challenges such as climate change, drought, and limited access to markets. AI can help address these challenges by providing farmers with more accurate weather forecasts, crop predictions, and market insights. For example, AI-powered drones can be used to monitor crop health and identify areas that require attention, while predictive analytics can help farmers optimize planting schedules and improve crop yields.
AI also has the potential to transform education in Africa. Africa is considered as the youngest continent with a median age of 19.7 years, however 60% of youth between 15 and 17 have never been to school. Education is a critical factor in economic development, yet many countries in Africa face challenges such as limited access to quality education and a shortage of skilled teachers. AI can help address these challenges by providing personalized learning experiences, enabling remote education, and automating administrative tasks. For example, AI-powered chatbots can provide students with personalized tutoring and support, while machine learning algorithms can help identify areas where students are struggling and provide targeted interventions.
While the potential impact of AI in Africa is significant, there are also challenges that need to be addressed to ensure that AI is deployed in a responsible and equitable manner. One challenge is the limited availability of data in many African countries. AI systems rely on large amounts of data to learn and improve, yet many African countries lack the infrastructure and resources to collect and manage data effectively. This can limit the development and deployment of AI systems in Africa, particularly in areas such as healthcare where access to data is critical.
Another challenge is the potential impact of AI on employment. AI has the potential to automate many jobs and tasks, which could have significant implications for the labour market on the continent. While automation could increase efficiency and productivity, it could also lead to job losses and exacerbate existing inequalities. To address this challenge, it will be important to develop policies and programs that support the development of new industries and jobs that are less susceptible to automation. Especially in the fields of science and technology, like data scientists, healthcare professionals, cyber-security experts, etc.
The AI age has caught up with us, the evolution is happening very fast, those who learn and adapt quickly will be the rulers of the new world we have just entered. As it is projected that one in three persons in the world will be African by the year 2050, we need to position our self very well so that we are not counted just by quantity, but also by the quality contributions we make in the world especially in the area of artificial intelligence. Africa is a blessed continent, we have 30% of the earth’s mineral resources, we are the most untapped continent, we have become a hot cake, as every advanced nation is looking to form strategic partnerships with continent. It’s time we take our rightful place in global advancement and not play second fiddle.
By Kwame Owusu Ansah
The writer is the founder of Techstripped Africa