Africa Has Its Own Approach to AI

Africa Has Its Own Approach to AI
U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed interacts with the robot Sophie, which is fitted with software in part developed by Ethiopians and programmed to speak Amharic in addition to English, at U.N. Headquarters in New York, Oct. 12, 2017 (Sipa photo by Albin Lohr-Jones via AP Images).

Policymakers and legislators around the world are debating how to regulate artificial intelligence. Although the U.S., the European Union and China dominate coverage of this effort, a less-publicized but vital discourse about AI is taking place throughout Africa.

In 2023 alone, there was an abundance of AI-focused conferences across the continent, including Deep Learning Indaba, AfricaAI Conference 2023 and the field-shaping 11th International Conference on Learning Representations. In all of them, the theme of “AI by Africa, for Africa” was on prominent display—an acknowledgment that AI will have significant enough societal consequences that it must be shaped by those it affects.

Community organizations and startups focused on AI in Africa are similarly gaining strength. And recognizing the vast potential of the as yet widely untapped pan-African market, tech giants like Google, Microsoft and others have launched AI-focused initiatives in innovation hubs like Nairobi and Accra.

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