Vera Songwe, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has said that Africa could expand its economy by a staggering $1.5 trillion, by capturing just 10% of the speedily growing artificial intelligence (AI) market, set to reach $15.7 trillion by 2030.
She made these revelations whilst addressing several ministers and other participants at the just ended third Africa Regional Science, Technology, and Innovation Forum (ARSTI2021) in the Republic of Congo.
“AI growth can help in creating additional high-value and decent jobs, diminish poverty, increase the productivity of firms, preserve the environment, and foster better living conditions. Research has shown that AI has the potential to solve some of the most pressing challenges facing Africa and drive sustainable development in agriculture, health, infrastructure, financial and public services, and climate change” .Songwe
ECA’s Executive Secretary stated that the Republic of Congo, which is hosting the virtual Forum in situ in Brazzaville, finds itself in a special sub-region, blessed with natural capital, such as huge forests. However, these forests have been disproportionately depleted, in comparison to those of other parts of the world, partly due to climate change. Artificial intelligence, she argued, could enhance already existing technologies that have been used to tackle COVID-19, to solve such climate change problems.
According to her, the imminent creation of an African Artificial Intelligence Research Centre in Brazzaville, Congo, with support from ECA, could give momentum to this new movement in Africa.
The Centre is being designed to improve the current landscape of Artificial Intelligence research in Congo and Africa in general, to orient the use of AI to foster economic and social development, while promoting close collaboration between academia and the industrial sector in AI and robotics across Africa.
According to Shamila Nair-Bedouelle, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, it is such investments and strong partnerships for capacity building in science, technology, and innovation that would accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa.
“Innovation cannot be decreed; it is planned and designed! Africa, therefore, has no excuse to be absent from the big rendezvous of innovation, which defines the 21st century. University dons, economists and, industrialists must come together to lead today’s learners into this exciting world”.Arlette Soudan-Nonault, Minister of Tourism and Environment of the Congo
Amon Murwira, Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development, Zimbabwe indicated that in such a world, “the STI that we teach will determine what our continent will become. Our industry must emerge from our classrooms and laboratories, supported by the correct educational system design and framework which no longer teaches students about where they get things but how to make things”.
He cited his country’s Education 5.0’ philosophy which is based on teaching, research, community outreach, innovation, and industrialization. ARSTI2021 features several debates and breakout sessions to follow-up and review progress made since the first two sessions of 2019 and 2020.
It has also featured an innovation boot camp for young Africans, both in-person in Brazzaville and connecting from across the continent and allowing them to develop projects using skills they have learned about robotics and AI, as well as access to 3D printing technologies.