Navigating the Intersection of Artificial Intelligence and Economic Development in Africa: Policy Requirements and Implications

AI technologies have evolved into a general-purpose technology (GPT), permeating all sectors of the economy and society, with the potential to revolutionise various industries and catalyse economic growth. Their potential to increase productivity, efficiency, and scalability could significantly affect Africa and the global landscape. Yet all this potential raises questions about the participation of African countries in the realisation of this potential. 

Africa faces significant disadvantages and disparities in the adoption, diffusion and meaningful use of AI technologies compared to the Global North. This policy brief highlights evidence of how AI technologies are affecting employment, competition, intellectual property, trade, taxation, liability and inequality, and the key recommendations below for AI economic policy.

This policy brief aims to provide the policy requirements for an enabling environment that is both risk-mitigating and opportunity-creating for the intersection of AI and economic development. The central research question this study seeks to understand is how AI contributes to, or detracts from, key economic and political aspects of state formation, employment creation, resource mobilisation, and re-distribution in Africa.

This brief is the synthesis of a comprehensive research report conducted using a mixed-method approach of a thorough desk review of scholarly works to investigate the impact of economic policies on AI diffusion and its societal implications in African countries. In addition, contextual evidence was collected through key informant interviews with stakeholders (African representatives from AI policy organisations, AI associations, regulators, academics, and private sector companies) to gather insights into the role of AI in economic policy formulation, state formation, and resource mobilisation in African contexts. Qualitative data analysis techniques were employed to identify recurring themes and patterns, providing nuanced insights into the complex relationship between AI adoption, economic policies, and their consequences in Africa.