Africa has long been associated with poverty, health problems, and limited technological advancements when viewed from the outside. However, this perception is rapidly changing as the continent experiences a surge of enthusiasm for technology, particularly among its youth. This newfound interest is bringing technology closer to where it is needed the most. While challenges such as limited investments, infrastructure, and policies still exist, Africa is finally attracting the attention it deserves.
The recent GITEX Africa Digital Summit in Lagos, Nigeria, marked a significant milestone for the continent. It was Africa’s first GITEX summit and the first to be held outside Dubai in 42 years. During his keynote address, Babajide Sanwo-olu, the Governor of Lagos State, expressed his belief that Africa is on the fast track to becoming the next Silicon Valley. He emphasized the importance of investing in African youth, who make up over 60 percent of the continent’s population. Despite this, only around 30 percent of investments in Africa are currently dedicated to the digital economy.
Lagos, under Sanwo-olu’s leadership, is already home to some of Africa’s largest data centers. The state’s Start-Up Act 2022 and the Knowledge, Innovation, Technology, and Entrepreneurship (KITE) Project in the Yaba suburb are propelling Lagos and Nigeria into a global innovation hub. Sanwo-olu stated that these initiatives would position Lagos as a city ready to compete on the global stage. He predicted that Africa would not only supply a significant portion of professionals needed in the global IT industry but also create numerous job opportunities.
The GITEX Africa Digital Summit showcased Africa’s rising status as a global leader in digital transformation. Tech leaders from across the continent and the world gathered to collaborate and pledged commitments to accelerate cross-continent investment opportunities. Artificial Intelligence (AI), the latest buzzword in the tech world, was a major focus, particularly regarding its potential to solve African problems. Experts from around the globe engaged in discussions and advancements in AI technology and its impact on African business, society, and culture.
Opinions on AI’s potential negative consequences are divided, but experts agree that it is poised to be the next major global technological shift. In Africa, AI has the potential to transform businesses and societies, particularly in addressing pressing issues such as poverty, unemployment, and inequality. Mustapha Zaouini, Chairman of AI in Africa, emphasized the continent’s steady embrace of AI despite challenges like internet access disparities. He highlighted the need to invest in infrastructure, education, and policy-making to fully harness AI’s potential and bridge the digital divide.
According to Simon See, the global head of Nvidia AI Technology Centre in Singapore, with the right investments and policies, AI can help Africa achieve its development goals and improve the lives of its people. The demand for AI skills in Africa is expected to grow by 36 percent between 2020 and 2025, driven by the continent’s young population and investments in start-ups and innovation. Companies are increasingly looking to hire AI experts to develop and implement AI-powered products and services, creating new job opportunities in Africa.
The impact of AI was evident at the GITEX Africa Digital Summit’s exhibition floor, where exhibitors showcased how AI is turbocharging waves of innovation across industries such as education, agriculture, transport, retail, energy, and logistics. BetaLife, a Nigerian start-up, exemplified this trend by utilizing cloud-based AI-powered platforms to revolutionize the healthcare sector. Their platform connects hospitals and blood banks, accurately predicting blood donation requirements and efficiently allocating resources, ultimately saving countless lives.
While Africa is still in the early stages of AI adoption, several countries have developed national AI strategies, and numerous start-ups and research institutions are working on AI-related projects. Adel Alsharji, the COO of Presight, a UAE-based AI-powered big data analytics company, stated that Africa is the second-fastest growing region globally in AI adoption. Africa’s readiness to explore and harness AI’s potential for economic growth and addressing local challenges is highlighted by its progress in AI adoption.
Africa’s flourishing fintech sector, estimated to reach revenues of $65 billion by 2030, presents another unique opportunity for the continent to leapfrog outdated stages of technological development. Khalid Elgibaly, President of the Middle East and North Africa Division at Mastercard, emphasized that fintechs are powerful enablers of financial services for previously underserved populations, overcoming traditional barriers. By promoting collaboration and knowledge sharing among stakeholders, GITEX Africa unlocks new opportunities and drives the digital transformation necessary to address the continent’s unique challenges while unlocking its vast potential.
As Africa embraces technology and AI, the continent is positioning itself as a global player in the digital era. The growing enthusiasm for technology, coupled with the right investments, policies, and collaborations, holds the promise of a brighter future for Africa, where technology can be leveraged to tackle its most pressing issues and drive inclusive economic growth.