18 Sep

New Opportunities: The rise of artificial intelligence in Africa

Artificial intelligence (AI) was first coined in 1956 by the scientist John McCarthy at Dartmouth College. Nearly 60 years later, it is now enjoying a major resurgence thanks to the exponential increases in computing power, the development of more sophisticated algorithms and the vast availability of data. The convergence of these technological developments has fueled AI’s rapid progress, making it the centre of attention for technology investment.

Today the hype around the AI is at its peak and many believe that we stand at the edge of a technological revolution. It is argued that today’s transformations are not merely a continuity of the third industrial revolution but rather the start of a fourth industrial revolution which is characterised by a fusion of technologies that blur the lines between the physical, digital and biological worlds.

AI’s unprecedented growth and impressive advancements are not limited to specific geographies but rather have an impact on all continents, Africa included. However, many African countries are still battling with issues related to the first, second and third industrial revolutions such as electricity, mechanisation of production and automation. Therefore, questions about Africa’s preparedness for the fourth industrial revolution are being raised: Is Africa catching up with the continual advancement in technology?

From cheap abundant labour to natural resources, Africa’s current strengths seem not to match with the fundamental needs of the fourth industrial revolution that consist mainly of colossal investment capital, research and development (R&D) and highly-skilled talent. However, the ongoing industrial revolution represents an opportunity, if used well, that will enable Africa to become a main player in the world economy.

Africa is embracing technology in a way that sets it apart from other continents, according to a report by PwC. Across the continent, many sectors have been empowered by an early adoption of technology. Instances include the agriculture and healthcare sectors.

Read more: The rise of artificial intelligence in Africa

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