AUDA-NEPAD AI Dialogue focuses on Continental Strategy

March 10, 2024

AUDA-NEPAD AI Dialogue Focuses on Continental Strategy – A Big Leap Towards A Technologically Empowered Africa

Amid the rapid global advancements in technology, the AUDA NEPAD AI Dialogue illuminated Africa’s ambitious path towards becoming an epicentre in the AI and robotics sectors. On February 29, 2024, stakeholders from across the continent and beyond convened to chart a course for Africa’s digital evolution. This event, marked by insightful discussions and the unveiling of strategic documents, has forged a new path for the continent’s journey towards becoming a leader in the digital economy.

A New Dawn for Africa’s Technological Future

Prof Aggrey Ambali, Senior Advisor at the Office of Science, Technology and Innovation at AUDA-NEPAD opened the dialogue by emphasising the transformative power of AI and robotics in advancing the continent. He underscored AUDA-NEPAD’s role in integrating science, policy, and innovation to make Africa a leader, not just a consumer, in the digital economy. The question then arises: How can this transformative power be effectively harnessed for the advancement of a continent? The unveiling of the AI Continental White Paper and Roadmap offered a compelling answer. This strategic document, developed through a collaborative effort with the African Union High-Level Panel on Emerging Technologies (APET) and contributions from over 50 experts across the continent, is envisioned to steer Africa towards a future in which technology acts as a driver for equitable and sustainable growth.

Prof. Ambali outlined the dialogue’s central objectives:

  • Promoting responsible AI adoption, ensuring ethical, transparent, and accountable use.
  • Strengthening African policymakers’ and decision-makers’ capacity and enabling the utilisation of AI technologies in partnership with the private sector.
  • Addressing AI myths, misconceptions, and policy challenges, linking policy research with stakeholders.

He then elaborated on the six foundational pillars of the roadmap:

  • Human capital development for AI, emphasising education and skills development.
  • Infrastructure and data foundations, highlighting the importance of robust physical and digital networks.
  • Creating enabling environments for AI development and deployment.
  • Fostering an AI-driven economic transformation.
  • Building sustainable partnerships across sectors and institutions.
  • Implementing rigorous monitoring & evaluation mechanisms.

A Strategic Roadmap to Africa’s AI Transformation

Dr Barbara Glover, Programme Officer at AUDA-NEPAD, meticulously outlined the collaborative efforts undertaken in the past two years to develop the Continental AI White Paper and Roadmap, setting the stage for a comprehensive AI strategy across Africa. She underscored the critical functions of AUDA-NEPAD, ranging from orchestrating key projects to providing advanced knowledge-based support, all pivotal for harnessing Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) as instrumental for the continent’s progress.

In her closing remarks, Dr Glover invited experts around the globe to contribute their valuable insights, emphasising the roadmap’s pivotal role in navigating Africa towards a future where technology serves as both a catalyst for development and a bridge to overcome challenges.

The door remains open for those eager to contribute to the AI Continental White Paper and Roadmap. Your expertise can profoundly influence Africa’s technological future. For information on how to contribute, click here.

Steps to Being a Reviewer:

To review the documents and the presentation from the webinar, please visit the following link: Access the Document and Presentation. After reviewing the white paper and roadmap, we kindly ask that you share your feedback via the following link: Submit Your Feedback. Additionally, a recording of the webinar is available for those who were unable to attend or wish to revisit the discussions. You can access the recording here: Webinar Recording (Passcode: 6s@zVqjL). We also would be rolling out bit-sized surveys and polls on various components of our envisioned roadmap.

Empowering the Next Generation of African Innovators

Ms Yvonne Baldwin-Mushi, Co-founder and CEO at Ele-vate AI, highlighted the importance of harnessing the potential of Africa’s youthful population to bridge the digital skills gap. “What if,” Yvonne posited, “the next great innovator is among us, waiting for an opportunity?” This question led to the initiation of the African Youth in AI & Robotics Competition, aiming to foster innovation and skill development among Africa’s youth.

The competition welcomes young African innovators aged between 15 to 35 and spans 10 diverse categories. Each category is designed to encourage participants to creatively engage with AI and robotics across various sectors, including mining, healthcare, and agriculture. The structure of the competition ensures three winners per category, with the prizes being notably substantial: 1st prize at 5,000 USD, 2nd prize at 3,000 USD, and 3rd prize at 2,000 USD. These incentives underscore the competition’s commitment to fostering inclusivity, enhancing education, and promoting innovative solutions that drive the continent toward sustainable development.

The Role of AI, Robotics, and Innovation in Strengthening Education in Africa

The panel discussion, a focal point of the dialogue, featured insights from Mr Josiah Mugambi, Ms Mfon Udechukwu, Ms Virginie Uwimana, and Dr Lwidiko Mhamilawa, each bringing a unique perspective to the role of AI, robotics, and innovation in education. This session is directly tied to the AU’s 2024 theme, “Year of Education,” focusing on educating an African fit for the 21st Century.

Mr Josiah Mugambi, the Technology Advisor at Ele-vate AI, emphasised the need for a balanced approach between regulation and innovation. He advocated for personalised learning tools powered by AI to cater to diverse learning styles. His call to action included building robust data infrastructures and improving the understanding of AI among the populace to foster an environment where AI can thrive without being stifled by premature regulations.

Ms Mfon Udechukwu, the Program and Community Coordinator at WeRobotics, and Virginie Uwimana, co-founder of Flying Labs Namibia, shared their experiences with drone technology, highlighting its potential to accelerate the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa. Their discussion underlined the importance of engaging communities in technology use. It emphasised the need for young Africans to be exposed to robotics and AI early, aligning with the vision of equipping the continent’s youth with necessary 21st-century skills.

Dr Lwidiko Mhamilawa, the co-founder of Projekt Inspire, emphasised the urgent need for increased investment in educational technology to improve access and enhance learning outcomes. He advocated establishing science centres and hubs as key sites to spark interest and facilitate learning in STEM fields. Dr Mhamilawa proposed leveraging AI tools as a revolutionary approach to transform the educational landscape across Africa, underscoring their potential to significantly impact how students engage with and learn from STEM subjects.

The Journey Forward

As the dialogue concluded, Prof Ambali’s remarks left participants with a profound sense of unity and shared mission. The day’s discussions marked the beginning of a collaborative journey towards an AI-driven future for Africa. This dialogue was a testament to the power of collective action, a reminder that the future of Africa’s digital landscape is in the hands of its people. As Africa stands on the brink of a technological revolution, the question remains: “How will you contribute to the continent’s digital future?”

Original article and NEPAD site is here >>

About the AI Media Group

The AI Media Group is a South African based industry analysis, publishing & business events consultancy specialising in the 4IR / smart tech sector in Africa.  They are curators of AI Expo Africa, the continent’s largest B2B/B2G Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) trade show and publishers of Synapse, the first quarterly trade magazine charting Africa’s 4IR innovation journey. The group also runs AI TV which hosts discussions on trends in AI and 4IR technologies with local, regional and global thought leaders.

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