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Empowering Africa: Unveiling the Continent’s AI Potential

Nigeria’s Minister of Technology, Bosun Tijani, announced at the National Artificial Intelligence Strategy Workshop’s closing ceremony in April that the initiative had secured $3.5 million in funding from interested partners. This project has been a key focus for Minister Tijani since his appointment in 2023. He has consistently stressed his ambition to steer Nigeria’s AI direction, believing the country must embrace digital transformation to avoid being left behind.

Reports confirm Mr. Bosun’s foresight. In 2023 alone, AI-related startups globally raised an estimated $50 billion. Recognizing the immense financial potential, investors and tech companies are pouring significant funds into AI. Africa, however, currently holds only 1% of these investments but could see economic growth of up to $1.5 trillion if it captures 10% of the AI investment.

Olu Oyinsan, managing partner of Oui Capital, notes Nigeria’s reliance on utilizing AI rather than developing it, unlike other parts of the world. The continent faces challenges in retaining AI talent, with many skilled engineers opting to work for companies outside Africa. This brain drain hinders the growth of AI startups on the continent.

Despite these obstacles, some remain optimistic. Ayobamigbe Teriba from VC firm HoaQ believes it’s crucial for Africa to build successful AI startups, emphasizing the importance of using African data to develop foundational data models. He stresses the need for heavy investment in this endeavor to ensure African representation and inclusion in the global AI landscape.

Teriba points to progress already underway, with initiatives like Nigeria’s Ministry of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy spearheading AI groundwork such as building large language models (LLMs). The acquisition of Africa’s pioneering AI startup, InstaDeep, by a German biotech company for $684 million in 2023 highlights the continent’s potential for global AI success.

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InstaDeep’s cofounder, Karim Beguir, underscores the importance of showcasing Africa’s AI capabilities. However, finding and retaining talent remains a challenge, particularly in the face of stiff competition from AI giants elsewhere.

In Nairobi, the Artificial Intelligence Centre for Excellence (AICE) is addressing this challenge by training AI engineers for the continent. Kevin Simmons of LoftyInc Capital notes that organizations like AICE are working in the fundamental AI space, albeit with less visibility due to the time required to build and test larger models.

In conclusion, while Africa faces hurdles in the AI race, there are efforts underway to overcome them. With strategic investment and talent development, the continent can carve out its place in the global AI landscape.

Techrectory with Agency Report.

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