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Navigating the Future of AI in Africa

As African nations begin to contemplate how to harness the power of AI technologies to address their needs, the Inaugural Africa AI Leadership Forum at GIBS tackled issues of AI literacy, data privacy and the legislative framework.

AI has remarkable potential for positive impact in Africa, if the technologies can be leveraged for the benefit of the continent and its people, GIBS professor and data scientist Prof. Manoj Chiba told the forum.

“AI is there to assist and enable and has immense potential to redefine sectors such as healthcare, agriculture, finance, and governance. However, with this promise comes a spectrum of challenges that we must not ignore,” he said.

“The future belongs to those of us who move from a static mindset to one where we recognise that we need to continuously adapt, learn and understand more,” Lyndon Munetsi, the digital transformation and tech enablement lead for Amazon Web Services (AWS) sub-Saharan Africa said. “In so doing, AI becomes a critical enabler as opposed to a threat. It is an opportunity to do far more than we ever could, as opposed to a potential replacement.” 

AI opportunities and fears

Co-founder of the African Academy of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) Greg Serandos explained that at present we are in an environment of fear, hype and confusion. Decisions are being made based on a fear of missing out: “People are being pressured by their boards to do something, anything, with AI, it doesn't have to be strategic as long as you tick the box.”

Fears around AI include mass job losses, privacy issues, the loss of intellectual property and an expanding digital divide.

GIBS faculty and founder of CyberDexterity Tony Christodoulou said many executives feel the pressure to get involved in AI, but are not always sure of their motivation: “Do we know the true purpose of what we are doing? And how do we make sure that we are not ignoring the analogue aspect of AI, which is people?”

Legislative framework

Monisha Prem is the CEO, senior adviser and a commercial attorney at M. Prem Inc and an expert in AI governance, risk, and compliance. She told the forum Africa and South African are lagging from an AI legislative perspective.

“We are perhaps the only continent in the world that is not making enough progress in terms of having the regulatory frameworks in place. The biggest risk from AI is still to fundamental human rights, not just in terms of bias and ethical concerns, but machines making decisions and influencing decision-making at a leadership level,” she explained.

Useful resources:
Gordon Institute of Business Science
Making an impact to significantly improve the competitive performance of individuals and organisation through business education to build our national competitiveness. GIBS is a leading business school in the heart of Sandton’s business hub, offering a wide range of executive and academic programmes.
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