African Observatory on Responsible Artificial Intelligence

Project Duration

January 2022 – January 2024

Project Description

The African Observatory on Responsible Artificial Intelligence (African Observatory) is a project funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) as part of their Artificial Intelligence for Development Africa (AI4D) program. AI4D is dedicated to a future where Africans across all regions create and use artificial intelligence to lead healthier, happier and greener lives. Research ICT Africa (RIA) functions as the African Observatory’s lead organisation. This multi-stakeholder project brings together a number of partners and regional collaborators (see below) who work together to promote African voices, experiences and value systems in global debates on responsible AI.

It has been recognised by scholars in the social sciences and humanities that an ‘African’ view on AI and AI ethics are critical for ensuring that the development and adoption of these new technologies support, and are not harmful to, African societies and ways of living. The project will emphasise foundational elements of inclusive and responsible AI governance, particularly as it relates to Africa’s (pre/post) colonial memory and in the context of its diverse democratic, constitutional and legal mechanisms of accountability. In raising the visibility of African AI research the African Observatory will establish itself as an open space of engagement, collaboration and critical inquiry on AI in diverse African societies, by enhancing positive impacts and mitigating the negative effects of AI through rigorous research, network facilitation, policy capacity building and public engagement.

Finally, the African Observatory is intended to function as a central hub for all projects funded by IDRC/SIDA AI4D Africa. As a meeting place and repository of Africa-focused AI research initiatives, the Observatory will work to: create a sustainable network of researchers and research institutions to support knowledge exchange on responsible AI for the continent; facilitate adaptable and enabling legislative and policy frameworks at a regional level that address responsible AI; equip policy actors with knowledge, skills, and understanding to harness the benefits of AI for the common good; and ensure engaged communities are able to participate in public debates on AI and claim their rights.

More information can be found at the African Observatory’s website.

Research Priorities

The African Observatory has four thematic research priorities, each premised on the basis of developing research to address the structural, long-term risks and benefits of AI in the African region and the foundational issues that underlie other concerns arising from the rapid use and deployment of AI technologies in the content. Research priorities include:

  • African AI ethics;
  • AI and difference;
  • AI and democracy; and
  • corporate accountability and public integrity in AI.

In addition, gender and diversity transformation is a foundational component of the approach, design and purpose of the African Observatory, which will forefront a commitment to gender equality and inclusion. The African Observatory is particularly committed to raising the visibility of African women working in AI – the Women in Focus series will create a space where the achievements of African women in AI can be celebrated. Find out more here.

Regional Collaborators