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8 - 12 November 2021
Virtual Event

8 - 12 November 2021
Virtual Event

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE OPPORTUNITIES IN AFRICA

Artificial intelligence (AI) is not just a transformational technology for the enterprise, but it is proving to be a critical area of investment and focus for countries and governments across the world.

Just like previous waves of technology innovation, whether it was the steam engine, electricity, computers, the Internet, or mobile, we are at the cusp of a new wave that will revolutionize how we live, work, and play.

AI is on the geopolitical agenda today with North America, Europe, and Asia getting a head start in what is being termed the “AI arms race,” as the bulk of AI research, skillsets, and startup investment is concentrated across these regions. In addition, some of the key countries driving AI growth also have national AI strategies, including China, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Japan, and South Korea, among others. As the rest of the world races ahead in its AI development plans, there is a risk that Africa will be left behind.

Africa, rather than being a monolithic region or continent with one identity, is a mix of multiple countries, regions, cultures, and economies. The diverse nature of Africa makes implementing AI slightly more difficult, as there are likely to be different motivations and capabilities within the African region that will guide AI strategies. However, AI is also not a monolithic technology with singular outcomes. AI is an umbrella of multiple technologies that is seeing adoption across hundreds of use cases across almost every industry. As a result, Africa can take advantage of the diverse nature of AI to target specific industries and use cases.

Africa has its economic engines firing again with traditional economies diversifying away from commodities and seeing the growth of business services. At the same time, Africa is seeing technology transformation both digitally across the enterprise and a robust mobile ecosystem that is seeing increasing contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) of the region. Africa is changing for the better, and despite its challenges socially, politically, and economically, there is potential for AI to transform the lives of ordinary people.

Africa is undergoing two major transformations, one economic and the second technological. Six of the ten fastest-growing economies in the world are in Africa, according to the World Bank.

All six countries are sub- Saharan African countries, which make up majority of the landmass of Africa and the region that continues to have the largest economic potential within the African continent.

The overall growth of sub-Saharan African economies in 2018 was 3.2%, compared to 2.4% in 2017. Most of the growth comes from improving commodity prices of oil, gas, and minerals, but also from economic reforms driving smaller countries like Ghana, Ethiopia, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Senegal, and Tanzania.

The overall growth of sub-Saharan African economies in 2018 was 3.2%, compared to 2.4% in 2017. Most of the growth comes from improving commodity prices of oil, gas, and minerals, but also from economic reforms driving smaller countries like Ghana, Ethiopia, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Senegal, and Tanzania.

Traditionally, the African economy has been heavily reliant on commodities with its largest economies of Nigeria and Angola being big oil producers.

The “Africa Rising” narrative was set in the period of 2000 to 2014 when the economies grew at roughly double the pace of what they were doing before.

However, the commodity price crash of 2014 caused an abrupt end to that narrative, as African countries that were highly dependent on commodity trading faced distress. The fall in commodity prices was a significant shock to the sub-Saharan African economy as fuels, ore, and metals account for more than 60% of the region’s exports.

As a result, there has been a push for diversification of economies into other sectors. The recent World Bank growth forecast is proof that African economies less reliant on commodities are gaining ground and leading the economic transformation.

While there are signs of economic progress in Africa, technology forms the backbone of much of this progress. Mobile technologies are becoming a significant share of the GDP in sub-Saharan Africa, with 2017 showing a 7.1% contribution amounting to $110 billion.

Over time, the share of mobile is expected to grow to 7.9% of the GDP, amounting to 7.9%. According to the GSMA, which has published these estimates, mobile will continue to drive productivity and efficiency gains, especially driven by the adoption of the mobile Internet.

The growth of mobile in Africa has been a key technology driver in the region, with mobile subscriptions having passed 1 billion in 2018, while unique mobile users in 2018 were estimated to be around 500 million. Africa has roughly 40% penetration of unique mobile subscribers, with mobile subscriber growth expected to continue at a healthy pace, reaching 50% penetration by 2025.

Internet penetration in Africa is much lower at 34%, and for many, a mobile device will be the first Internet device, rather than a PC or laptop. Social media penetration in Africa is also around 14%, with mobile being the primary driver.

4G is still being rolled out across Africa, but the next decade will see the rollout of the first 5G services that will help many African countries leapfrog developed economies in terms of digital connectivity.

Africa is poised for continued growth in mobile and digital services, which builds a solid foundation for AI.

8 - 12 November 2021
Virtual Event

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