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The Transformative Potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Africa: A Vision for Sustainable Development (By H.E. Younus Al Nasser)

The successful deployment of AI in Africa requires a concerted effort from governments, private sector stakeholders, and civil society.

By H.E. Younus Al Nasser, Chief Executive Officer of the Dubai Data and Statistics Establishment, part of Digital Dubai ( Al Nasser is a globally recognized leader in planning and implementing city-wide digital transformation and building holistic data ecosystems.

Digital Dubai’s participation at GITEX Africa 2024 has presented a great opportunity for us to delve into some of the key themes of the event. With a 50-person strong contingency, representing nine Dubai government entities, our goal is to collaborate, share knowledge and understand what the African public and private sector entities, have developed to support and grow its ecosystems, as well as to understand what they are working on in the technology space. One of the core themes I’d like to explore is AI.

In recent years, the global landscape has witnessed a remarkable surge in the adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology across various sectors. Africa, with its rich potential and diverse challenges, stands at the cusp of a transformative era driven by AI innovations. As we delve into the future of AI in Africa, it becomes increasingly evident that harnessing this technology holds immense promise for sustainable development, economic growth, and social empowerment across the continent.

According to a recent report by the International Data Corporation ( 1 (IDC), it was predicted that spending on AI in the Middle East, Turkey, Africa (META) region will top $3.0 billion this year, up 32% from 2023. Available data from Statista states that the continent’s AI market will grow 30% annually over the next six years to a value of $17 billion ( 2. This surge takes the continent into the global AI innovation race. According to the AI Everything Expo at GITEX AFRICA, this year centres the world’s attention on Africa’s booming AI phenomenon. This surge is not merely about adopting the latest tech trends; it signifies a strategic imperative for African nations to leapfrog into a future where AI can address pressing societal challenges while unlocking new opportunities.

One of the key areas where AI is poised to make a substantial impact is healthcare. With AI-powered diagnostics, predictive analytics, and telemedicine solutions, healthcare delivery in Africa is likely to become more accessible, efficient, and cost-effective. For instance, AI algorithms can analyze medical imaging data to detect diseases earlier than existing methods, leading to better treatment outcomes and reduced healthcare disparities.

Concerning healthcare, since 2014, Digital Dubai, in partnership with the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), has been on a steadfast mission to enhance healthcare experiences for patients and residents through a fusion of innovation and smart technologies. Their efforts have yielded remarkable progress, with a staggering 98.55% ( 3 digital completion rate reflecting comprehensive digitization across healthcare processes. This achievement ensures seamless access to medical services and information, contributing to an improved patient experience.

AI-driven agricultural technologies hold immense promise for addressing food security challenges in Africa. With predictive analytics, precision farming techniques, and smart irrigation systems, farmers can optimize crop yields, mitigate risks related to climate change, and improve overall agricultural productivity. This not only enhances food security but also creates new economic opportunities in rural areas.

Furthermore, education is another critical sector where AI can revolutionize learning experiences and bridge the digital divide. AI-powered, personalized learning platforms can adapt to individual student needs, provide real-time feedback, and enhance overall learning outcomes.

The successful deployment of AI in Africa requires a concerted effort from governments, private sector stakeholders, and civil society. Collaborative initiatives focused on AI research and development, talent development, and regulatory frameworks are essential for creating an enabling ecosystem that fosters AI innovation while ensuring ethical and responsible AI use.

In Dubai, UAE, AI has become the driving force behind our ambitious vision for a smart, sustainable future. By 2030, PwC estimates that AI will generate $320 billion ( 4 for the Middle East region. The UAE will see the largest impact, with the technology contributing nearly 14% to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). This is equivalent to about $97 billion ( 4. This forecast amplifies Digital Dubai Authority’s intense efforts to advance the city’s growth by making AI one of its priorities.

Dubai has launched a series of initiatives to support its AI journey, including the likes of Dubai Centre for Artificial Intelligence ( 5 which aims to make Dubai and its government the global leaders in implementing Artificial Intelligence (AI), preparing for the world’s evolving technology landscape. In addition, Digital Dubai launched its new DubaiAI Chatbot ( 6 at the Dubai Assembly for Generative AI. The AI chatbot acts as a personal digital assistant for users, designed using generative AI to answer their queries in real-time, with a personalized touch, helping users feel that the answers are tailored specifically for them in an interactive dialogue context.

In April this year, Dubai announced the launch of the Dubai Universal Blueprint ( 7 for Artificial Intelligence. This Blueprint aims to achieve key targets of Dubai’s economic agenda D33, which has set out ambitious goals of doubling the size of Dubai’s economy over the next decade and reinforce its position amongst the top 3 global cities. The Blueprint will support in adding Dh100 billion to the city’s economy and increasing economic productivity by 50 percent. Additionally, the Blueprint is designed to enhance quality of life in Dubai. With the adoption of AI across all significant sectors for the future of the city as well as becoming the best and fastest city in employing technology and adopting advance applications.

Embracing AI responsibly and ethically is not just a choice but a necessity, as it empowers countries to unlock unprecedented opportunities while addressing complex challenges. The UAE Strategy ( 8 for Artificial Intelligence aims to achieve the objectives of UAE Centennial 2071 ( 9, boost government performance at all levels, use an integrated smart digital system that can overcome challenges and provide quick efficient solutions, make the UAE the first in the field of AI investments in various sectors and create a new, vital market with high economic value. By fostering collaboration, investing in talent, and promoting inclusivity, the full potential of AI can be harnessed to build a better world. Together, let us embark on this transformative journey, where AI catalyzes positive change, prosperity, and human advancement.Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Digital Dubai Authority.