In a bold collaborative move, the United Kingdom is teaming up with international organizations, including Canada, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the United States, and key African stakeholders, to fast-track the development of artificial intelligence (AI) across Africa. This monumental effort, unveiled alongside the UK's AI Safety Summit, is set to receive an £80 million investment, with a laser focus on combating inequality and fostering prosperity throughout the region.
The UK government's "AI for Development" program has set ambitious goals that include the creation or expansion of a minimum of eight responsible AI research laboratories within African universities. Additionally, the program aims to establish robust regulatory frameworks to ensure responsible, equitable, and safe AI practices in at least ten African nations. It also seeks to leverage AI to benefit the 700 million people who speak 46 different African languages, as the continent is home to roughly a third of the world's languages, totalling over 2,000.
This groundbreaking program aspires to elevate five or more African countries to influential positions in the global AI discourse, particularly in how AI can be harnessed to achieve the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals.
Africa, a continent characterized by its diversity, with 54 countries and over 3,000 ethnic groups, has encountered historical challenges, including colonization and resource exploitation. To ensure equitable access to AI technology, the initiative will initially concentrate on sub-Saharan Africa.
AI is anticipated to have a transformative impact, from accelerating drug discovery to delivering accessible education for individuals with disabilities and improving access to clean energy.
Over the next five years, the program will allocate funding for AI training and fellowships in African universities. It will also support innovators in developing AI models that authentically represent the continent by harnessing local expertise and computing power.
Beyond addressing AI regulatory challenges, the program endeavours to promote responsible AI governance across African countries, helping them adapt to technological changes and mitigate AI-related risks.
This initiative forms part of a broader campaign to enhance the influence of sub-Saharan African nations in shaping the role of AI in advancing the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, and the African Commission on Human and People's Rights will represent Africa at the UK's AI Safety Summit, underlining the global potential of AI to drive positive change and tackle pressing challenges.
Article by Jed Mwangi