Leveraging AI in Africa
The last decade has witnessed several mass impacts from technological innovations that have penetrated Africa. AI has the potential to bring numerous positive changes in multiple sectors across the region, such as healthcare and finance, as well as transforming physical infrastructure and more adequately meeting consumer demands, while freeing up more time for skilled labour and increasing labour productivity. As Katie discussed during a recent Africa Com webinar (click here to view), the scope for reform has led some to speculate that this so-called fourth industrial revolution, where countries are eagerly adopting these emerging technologies such as AI and the IoT, represents an opportunity for Africa to really make its mark.
Google was the first to make its AI mark on Africa. In 2016 alone, it invested $30 billion on AI and machine learning research. More recently, Africa’s emerging artificial intelligence sector got its most promising boost from Google, as it opened up its first Africa AI research centre in Accra, Ghana’s capital.
But how is Africa leveraging AI to its advantage in present day? Let’s take a look at two important industries in Africa today, agriculture/farming, and healthcare, to see how AI is making a change.
With agriculture being the largest industry in Africa, innovative technology is often at the forefront, modernising and improving facilities in order to deliver an enhanced service, as well as to improve the livelihood of the farming community. In 2015, The Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX) teamed up with IBM and IBM Business Partner Wavetec, to build a coffee-traceability solution based on leading analytic technologies, and mobile and IoT technology. Today, the IoT solution tracks the progress of coffee through all stages of the supply chain. The full traceability helps the coffee businesses obtain Fairtrade and organic certification for their products, allowing them to take home larger incomes.
Another AI solution in the agricultural/farming industry is Aeroview, a platform developed by the Cape Town based start-up Aerobotics. It uses AI, satellites and drones to aid farmers and help them optimise the yield through analysing maps to identify problem areas in crops. Aeroview is used worldwide in countries such as South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Thanks to Aerobotics’ technology, sugar farmers in South Africa can now intervene early to prevent up to 20% of crop failures via the system’s analytics, which harness the infra-red imagery to map regions and individual crop rows of stressed plants.
Since healthcare is fundamental to our wellbeing, the industry is an eager adopter of technological innovation. AI in healthcare has already proven successful in western parts of the world, with the NHS’ digital transformation revealing unparalleled innovations including AI-assisted robotic surgery, automating administrative tasks, image analysis and much more. But how has Africa integrated AI into the healthcare industry?
Some parts of Africa have already started integrating artificial intelligence into their healthcare systems. Medical institutions in Morocco, Cameroon and South Africa have integrated ‘SOPHiA’ artificial intelligence for clinical genomics to improve patients’ care. SOPHiA enables hospitals to analyse genomic data to identify disease-causing mutations in patients’ genomic profiles and decide on the most effective care.
Drones are another transformative advancement, offering huge benefits to the healthcare sector in Africa. Rwanda has adopted the world’s first national drone delivery network for medical aid, which is used to deliver blood to patients in remote areas. The California based Robotics company “Zipline” is working directly with Rwanda’s National Centre for Blood Transfusion to make 50 to 150 deliveries a day of blood to 21 transfusing facilities in the western part of the country. Rwanda has formalised drone regulations and is currently building a drone airport that is scheduled to be completed in 2020.
To exploit the full potential of AI for Africa, it will require the combined efforts of employers, industries, workers, and the government, to embrace and invest in more research projects and create favourable environments to utilise the emerging technology. It is a very important time for Africa to increase investment and not to fall behind in the AI race.
To learn more about the impact of AI in Africa, and how businesses in this region can leverage AI tools to optimise core business functions, then book onto Katie King’s upcoming training programme. The 90-minute online training course will take place on the 11th October 10:30am-12:00pm. To find out more or to book, click here.