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Now Available: AI Report on Southern Africa

20 Mar, 2024
This post was broadcasted from MISA Regional.
Applications of AI in Southern Africa are in their early stages. Many pilot projects and technology-driven business models demonstrate the potential for AI to benefit underserved populations, better connect local communities and international technology firms, and improve lives.

Executive Summary

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has rapidly become a constant in most people`s lives through its application in commerce, education, health, public service delivery, communications, governance, agriculture, and manufacturing.

While most AI tools originated in the United States, Europe, and China, developing and adopting AI is slow in Southern Africa. Yet, AI tools have the potential to address some of the most pressing issues in Africa by promoting economic growth, enhancing agricultural systems, enabling higher-quality education, and addressing health and climate challenges, thanks to the increasing availability of computational power, improved connectivity, and data.

Applications of AI in Southern Africa are in their early stages. Many pilot projects and technology-driven business models demonstrate the potential for AI to benefit underserved populations, better connect local communities and international technology firms, and improve lives.

However, as with other emerging technologies, from cryptocurrency to 5G, AI presents challenges and new opportunities, especially as it transitions from Western settings to African contexts.

Broadly speaking, these challenges fall into three categories. The first is the deficiencies in AI readiness, i.e., technology capacity and policymaking faced by African countries. The second set of challenges and the focus of this paper are deficiencies inherent to the ” architecture” of AI systems and how they are developed.

The third challenge will include the misuse of AI. For the developing world, AI is already contributing in many ways: to target humanitarian relief, address climate impacts, and support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Yet in Southern Africa, most countries lack comprehensive policy frameworks to incentivise responsible AI, regulate AI-driven business models, or effectively promote the creation and capture of high-quality African data. This research seeks to provide evidence-based findings on the extent of the uptake of AI in Southern Africa, AI readiness, and the role of AI in aiding information disorders during elections.

Southern Africa is a large region with 15 countries and a diverse cultural, economic, and political environment. As a result, the adoption of AI may differ from country to country. Africa has historically been at the rear end of industrial revolutions, playing catch-up. With the correct mix of policy and drive, the region can leapfrog and catch up with its peers in the West.

Click this link to download the report

About MISA

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) was founded in 1992. Its work focuses on promoting, and advocating for, the unhindered enjoyment of freedom of expression, access to information and a free, independent, diverse and pluralistic media.

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