According to various independent market research companies, the AI industry’s share to global GDP is anywhere between $1.2 trillion and $2 trillion. By 2030, this industry is expected to contribute more than $15.6 trillion to the global GDP. A lion share of this comes from countries like the US, UK, Canada, Germany, Japan, China, and India. These are called start-up destinations that are already evaluated at 24% of this the global GDP.
Let’s take a dive into Africa’s AI Ecosystem and why we feel that it is currently reeling beneath clouds of uncertainty and obscurity.
According to PwC, AI investments in growing and under-developed economies hold the key to its next phase of adoption. While China and the US lead the race to become the biggest AI markets and solutions providers in the world, we have a dark horse in the race. These are countries from Africa. PwC’s AI report states that GDP gains in the next 10-12 years are most likely to come from Augmented Intelligence and Artificial Intelligence companies. These companies are focused on improving labor productivity in African countries, helping local companies to automate tasks and roles for Data Processing, predictive IT maintenance, Clinical Data Research, content distribution, Social Media Analytics, Voice Commerce, NLP, Neural Networking, Big Data Analytics, and Contract Analytics.
Healthcare and Internet: The Two Ends of the Disparaging Spectrum of Africa’s AI Ecosystem
738 million Africans are under constant risk of suffering from deadly epidemics and drought. HIV/AIDS continues to be the giant killer, affecting 60% of the population under WHO programs. 30% of the global cases inflicted with Malaria are from Africa. TB, Leprosy, Diptheria, Measles and Yellow fever are other big killers in Africa. Inadequate access to public healthcare facilities, safe drinking water, and infant care facilities kill another million every year. You may not give Africa’s AI ecosystem much of a chance thinking of these healthcare doldrums. And, this is a sinking hole that global healthcare companies are fully aware of.
Looking at the other spectrum of civilized development, Africa’s internet operations are equally abysmal. Compared to global Internet penetration rate and computer literacy, Africa continues to suffer badly. In 2011, only 13.5% of the African population had access to internet services, affecting the quality of life and culture on the continent. South Africa, Egypt, and Morocco are the highest users of internet facilities, but the total host population in Africa is fewer than Finland alone!
Can u see the black spots on the African map? AI analysts and researchers would be ashamed at the lack of penetration in these regions.
In this digital divide for African countries, how can Africa’s AI truly penetrate into the untapped fields of Science, & technology?
PwC has stated in their report summary,
“While some markets, sectors and individual businesses are more advanced than others, AI is still at a very early stage of development overall. From a macroeconomic point of view, there are therefore opportunities for emerging markets to leapfrog more developed counterparts. And within your business sector, one of today’s start-ups or a business that hasn’t even been founded yet could be the market leader in ten years’ time.”
Fintech: The Best Entry Point for Africa’s AI Ecosystem
Healthcare facilities may seem to be softest territories to deploy AI ML automation and Data Science. But, it is far from being a reality. In Africa, AI’s role has been harnessed for mostly banking, and government-related platforms. A reason that I believe is true– to provide a sizeable ‘marketing’ value to Africa’s free-trade proposition around “Made in Africa” branding. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is aiming at the creation of a single market for goods and services. This is a key element of the AU’s ambitious Agenda 2063.
AI’s growing capabilities in labor workforce automation and skillset improvements could enable African countries to seize this opportunity with both hands. According to recent reports on South Africa’s AI culture, nearly 45% of the top companies are already familiar with various AI and Robotic Process Automation technologies. For the top AI ML, Automation and Analytics providers, Africa is a brownfield destination.
Last month, Microsoft and tax advisory company EY came together to identify the scope of AI ML in Africa. Brian Lewkowicz, Lead on Intelligent Automation at EY Africa, said, ”
“To realize the true value of AI, organizations need to understand the scope and risks specific to them. Then they need to define the value and capabilities needed to integrate, activate and incorporate intelligent, robotic and autonomous capabilities. We hope that this study, which we are proud to have partnered with our alliance partner Microsoft, opens doors for South African organizations to use AI to improve business processes and accessibility for non-technical users.”
Last year, Google opened its AI research center in Accra, Ghana. Since then, the center for AI and Machine Learning research has done some remarkable work in Africa, though mostly for businesses and internet-related services. For instance, Google AI announced Google Station for Nigeria to promote the use of Internet and Wi-fi HotSpots. Nigeria remains the only country using this station. In 2018, Google Go, Google Maps and YouTube Go made their entry, and since then it has made steady progress for AI-based marketing, sales, and public services.
For now, with just over 100 AI companies targeting Africa as their market, it’s uncertainty looming large on the prospects of AI ML widely accepted as a tech of the future in the continent. Especially, when you explore job opportunities and collaboration with the government.
So, what’s the solution!
AI RADAR in Africa: The Next Steps to Salvage from Uncertainty
Undoubtedly, there are ominous signs that AI in Africa would transform the culture and economy with unprecedented results. Education, Commerce, Healthcare, Public Utilities, Agriculture, Forestation, Wildlife Conservation, Automobile Engineering, Mining and Shipping, and Weather Forecasting are some of the low-hanging fruits that AI incubators could readily focus at. Today, you would totally agree with AI turning the screw tight on all major challenges in Africa. The AI startup ecosystem in Africa needs to rise up and take this opportunity to make the continent better than what it was in the previous decades.
If you are eyeing new projects to promote the adoption and sustenance of AI ML and advanced technologies in the low penetration regions of the world, then share your ideas and insights with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We will cover your story, leadership news, product roadmap and conferences in our AI RADAR series.