It is preferable to admit right off the bat that artificial intelligence is here to stay; it is the new technology of the century and it is a matter of time before we all become dependent on it. The use of artificial intelligence has gone beyond the borders of the United States. It is already used in the Western world and it started to penetrate developing countries. Soon enough, the whole world will be depending on artificial intelligence for almost anything, and even the less-technologically developed societies will have to adapt in order to remain part of the global market. This is the case for the African continent. Artificial intelligence will play a quintessential role in the socioeconomic and financial development of the African continent. Clearly, AI has the potential to have a significant impact on Africa in a number of ways. Some of the potential benefits of AI for Africa include:
1. Improved Healthcare: AI can help improve healthcare services in Africa by analyzing large volumes of data to identify patterns, diagnose diseases, and develop personalized treatment plans.
2. Enhanced Agriculture: AI can assist farmers in Africa to increase their crop yields and improve food security by providing data-driven insights on crop growth, pest control, and weather forecasting.
3. Increased Access to Education: AI-based educational tools such as chatbots, language translation software, and virtual assistants can help bridge the education gap in Africa by providing students with personalized learning experiences.
4. Job Creation: The deployment of AI systems and technologies in Africa can create new job opportunities in areas such as software development, data analysis, and robotics.
5. Financial Inclusion: AI-powered mobile banking systems can help bring financial services to underserved communities in Africa by providing affordable and accessible banking services.
This, of course, does not mean that there won’t be any potential negative impact of AI on African societies. There are potential risks associated with the use of AI in Africa. Job displacement is perhaps the first major downside of the use of AI in Africa. Indeed, AI could lead to job displacement in some sectors, such as manufacturing and agriculture. The second risk of using AI in Africa is the potential increased inequality. Certainly, the benefits of AI could be unevenly distributed, leading to increased inequality. The third risk of using AI in Africa is data privacy. AI systems collect and use large amounts of data, which could raise privacy concerns, and make people’s lives exposed and open to any kind of threats that could result in harmful consequences. The fourth risk of using AI in Africa is "bias." Truly, AI systems could be biased against certain groups of people, such as certain tribes and marginalized groups.
The current reality is that Africa does not have power and efficient internet access. The digital ecosystem relies heavily on reliable, affordable electricity, from home internet connections to the base stations that underpin cellular networks to the data centers that store the internet’s contents. This means that most African countries with weak power infrastructures will continue to experience the digital divide and digital exclusion. For example, Sub-Saharan Africa’s power sector is struggling due to low electrification rates, high prices, and appalling reliability, therefore, affecting the region’s digital competitiveness. For a continent that has great development potential, platforms like ChatGPT can become a business enabler by creating business efficiency and allowing the continent to tap into new industries. Thus, business leaders in Africa should actively invest in AI technology to gain a slice of the global AI market.