Harnessing Artificial Intelligence for Inclusive and Sustainable Economic Growth in Africa: A Path towards Agenda 2063

The Africa Union’s digital transformation agenda is epitomised by inclusive and sustainable economic growth. Science, technology, and innovation have been identified as key drivers of economic growth in Africa. Notably, the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa 2024 (STISA-2024) outlines artificial intelligence (AI) technology as the main technology driving science, technology, and innovation in Africa. In line with this agenda, Research ICT Africa collaborated with the African Union Development Agency’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AUDA-NEPAD) in their fourth Euradite Series for a webinar that shed light on the role of AI in achieving this agenda.

With developments in AI, it is crucial to examine how this technology can either complicate or facilitate the achievement of the Agenda 2063 objectives. This blog post delves into the webinar’s key points, focusing on economic forecasts and the regulatory environment essential for the deployment of AI. Artificial intelligence has emerged as a powerful force driving economic development worldwide. However, its development and deployment in Africa is riddled with regulatory and economic challenges.

There is a concern that the digital divide in Africa presents significant challenges for the adoption of AI. The digital divide is rooted in issues such as inadequate infrastructure, unaffordability, and limited digital skills. Also, AI requires a structured data ecosystem. Data is a key input for AI technology, yet data in Africa is still limited and not readily accessible. Fortunately, efforts are being made by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) to improve the availability and quality of data. In addition, the African Union’s Africa Data Policy Framework aims to guide policy formulation and ensure that data production and usage benefit all Africans. This is a critical step toward harnessing the data essential for the development of AI. These issues are among the deeper economic challenges that may impact the development of AI within the context.

The webinar offered valuable insights into the regulation and governance of AI in Africa. Regulation is indispensable to the proper functioning of an economic society. African governments need to create policies and frameworks which create an enabling environment for the development and deployment of AI in Africa. This includes creating frameworks and guidelines that do not exacerbate inequalities. The main regulatory challenges highlighted at the event were the complex nature of AI technologies and the speed at which AI development takes place while regulation struggles to keep up. However, regulatory sandboxes could ensure the protection of rights without stifling innovation.

Further, it was highlighted that achieving the above would require investment into research and development to enable African procurement of domestic and regionally developed AI tools rather than merely consuming technology from the Global North and China. This would result in AI technology development within an African context. To ensure deep and meaningful prosperity for all Africans, it is essential to prioritise mitigating the potential negative consequences that might deepen existing inequalities.

As Africa strives to realise the vision of Agenda 2063, harnessing the power of AI becomes crucial for inclusive and sustainable economic growth. The webinar served as a platform to highlight how this can be achieved. This event inspired stakeholders to leverage AI’s potential to shape a prosperous future for Africa and its citizens.