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AI cooperation to drive Africa development

Continent can leverage expertise from China in digital transformation: Experts

By RADING GERRO in Nairobi, Kenya | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-03-13 09:37

Artificial intelligence can be a promising area for China-Africa cooperation to help African countries tap their potential for economic development, industry insiders said.

Paradigm Initiative, a Pan-African nonprofit organization that promotes digital inclusion, terms AI as the magic bullet that will help the continent add value to its vast mineral resources for economic growth.

Sani Suleiman Sani, programs officer at Paradigm Initiative, said China has been a key strategic partner for most African states in areas such as trade, science, technology and infrastructural development, and AI can also be an area where China can provide support.

"We need to unlock AI potential which requires strategic partnerships and careful consideration of ethical concerns. China can support this journey through collaborative research, capacity building, and infrastructure development."

Sani added that African states seeking fruitful AI partnerships with China should focus on strategic dimensions such as digital infrastructure projects, new-generation mobile communication networks and meaningful connectivity technologies, digital education, and digital governance capacity, as well as the development of AI tailored for local African problems.

Data from PwC Research reveals that by 2030, AI industry globally will be worth nearly $16 trillion.

Chris Otundo, CEO of Brighter-Monday Kenya, a recruitment firm with a presence in the African continent, said that Africa needs to be strategic to reap dividends from the sector.

"Our governments should strengthen partnerships with global players, including China and other AI-developed nations, to foster knowledge exchange and technology transfer. We can work with China in establishing innovation hubs and incubators that support AI-driven innovation and development," Otundo said.

He said African states need to allocate more funding toward the growth of the AI industry. "We must be able to allocate a reasonable percentage from our budget in a bid to grow the AI industry in the African continent and there is no other way out of this because either we get it right or forget about it."

Ehud Gachugu, project director of Ajira Digital and Youth Employment under the Kenya Private Sector Alliance, said AI collaboration between Africa and China can help the continent solve many of the challenges it faces in the traditional sectors.

Vibrant ecosystem

"China's AI industry is characterized by robust research and development, massive investments, and a vibrant ecosystem of startups and tech giants, which present a wealth of opportunities for African nations to leapfrog traditional barriers and accelerate their development agenda," said Gachugu.

He pointed out that by fostering collaboration between Chinese AI firms, African startups, and academic institutions, synergistic ecosystems can emerge, fostering knowledge exchange, skills development, and technology transfer.

"Through incubators, accelerators, and joint research initiatives, African innovators can leverage Chinese expertise to develop AI-driven solutions tailored to local challenges."

However, the lack of a better regulatory framework is a major bottleneck for the growth of the AI industry in the African continent, according to experts.

"Most African countries … rely on data protection laws and other 'soft laws' to regulate AI. These laws often predate significant AI advancements and may not adequately address the unique risks and opportunities presented by the technology," said Sani.

The writer is a freelance journalist for China Daily.

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