– Regardless of power, broadband and talent challenges, Africa is taking more part in the fourth industrial revolution than the three revolutions before it
– It is necessary for Africa to participate and have some control if it doesn’t want to lose its businesses, jobs, and access to the products of the future which only work for populations whose data is included in their development. With soon-to-be the world’s largest workforce, Africans need to be trained for the jobs of tomorrow and serve as an asset for that world
– Key African countries are taking major strides to participating in the 4IR, and Alliance for Africa’s Intelligence is stimulating adoption across Finance, Agriculture and Healthcare in multiple nations on the continent
A stimulating panel it was moderated by Google’s Stanley Onyimba during the April 2019 Stanford Africa Business Forum where he discussed with three incredible topic experts and myself on the fourth industrial revolution’s relevance to the African continent.
On the panel were Abasi Ene Obong – CEO 53gene, Tunde Ladipo – head of partnerships Interstellar, Tayo Akinyemi – Advisor for several African entities including African Tech Roundup and myself, Alex Tsado – Lead for NVIDIA’s GPU cloud business and founding Director of the Alliance for Africa’s Intelligence, a non-profit set up to help Africa regain its reputation as an innovation partner for the world.
What is the 4IR and when should Africans care about it?
African professor at Singularity University John Osei describes the 4IR as a series of innovative accomplishments that make the ETCs – Energy, Transportation, Communication – free for all, providing a platform on which the exponential technologies of blockchain, IoT, cloud, VR, AR and artificial intelligence converge to usher in a world beyond our sci-fi movie imaginations.
2020 to 2030 will be pivotal years as the economic world order will reshuffle mostly based on how countries prepare and position themselves to benefit from immense opportunities unlocked by the 4IR. This is the 1st revolution that is indexed more on mental capacity to innovate than on financial wherewithal, and thus provides a potential leveler for any country that takes hold of the opportunity.
Should Africa care about the 4IR or solve its basic problems first?
It is incorrect to think the right path is to solve all the basic infrastructure problems before thinking about the technologies of the 4IR. Rather consider the technologies of the 4IR as enablers, capable of accelerating the development of resource-efficient solutions to basic problems that previously required 100-billion dollar annual investments.
During the Stanford Keynote Alain Ebobissé, CEO Africa50, shared that Africa has an infrastructure gap of $100B annually. What if Africa’s adoption of 4IR technologies allows it to accomplish twice as much with its current $70B spend to dramatically close the infrastructure gap?
An alternate vantage point shows that the absence of a dedicated effort to adopt technologies of the 4IR will have grim implications for the continent, across the life of businesses and people.
“Today, the elite of Africa travel across oceans to get the best medical care,” said Abasi. “In the very near future, our African elite will find that they travel to Europe and USA and receive care that can’t cure their ailment anymore because future health solutions are being built with data that excludes information from Africans”.
In the business realm, you only create jobs when your business is growing, because it is providing the best solution for your market. With each passing moment AI-enabled solutions are providing dramatically better solutions, so businesses that don’t adopt AI will be forced to shut down, taking with them the jobs they were providing.
What can the world benefit from Africa’s involvement in the 4IR
Since his appointment as lead for Google’s AI research lab in Ghana, Moustapha Cisse has shared intentions to explore peculiar advances Africa and its people can provide to the field of AI, including leveraging its wealth of 2000-plus languages to further the field of speech understanding.
I see peculiar benefits emerge from focusing African AI research on its uniquely diverse and aged Agriculture and Healthcare data, diversity in language to further NLP research and complexity of infrastructure and African road networks to developing autonomous machines that’ll work in other parts of the world.
“In Genomics, we are seeing unique genetic makeup of select African populations where insights generated are applicable to people from all parts of the world.” Said Abasi. “These parts of Africa should invest more in genomic research, along with support from the rest of the world given how outcomes can be transformational for people everywhere”.
“The world can also see incredible benefit from applying technologies of the 4IR to the African continent because necessity might very well drive adoption faster than anywhere else” said Tayo. “We already saw how the absence of banks has led Kenya to lead the entire world in fintech innovation and Rwanda lead in applying drones to delivering blood to hospitals. We are just getting started”.
What is the Alliance for Africa’s Intelligence (A4AI)’s role in the 4IR
The Alliance4AI is the one-stop shop for everything AI in Africa and will include other 4IR technologies as those become more mature. You find a repository of startups, communities, practitioners, conferences, policies, real success stories and more resources to either ease your path to innovating with AI in Africa or accurately reporting on the level of AI activity on the continent.
The Alliance4AI accelerates learning & development by helping learning communities across the continent to collaborate and share best practices and advises governments & enterprise on how to design AI strategies to take advantage of the massive economic shift potential provided by the 4IR technologies.
We strongly believe that in focusing on youth, women, expanding the middle class and stimulating pan-African/ Diaspora collaboration, we will empower Africans to improve lives with technology and regain her reputation as a global innovation partner.