Research Priorities

The African Observatory has four thematic research priorities, listed below. Our premise in deciding on these thematics was on developing research  to address the structural, long term risks and benefits of AI in the African region and the foundational issues including democracy, regulation and equality, that underlie other concerns arising from the rapid use and deployment of AI technologies in the Continent. 

By using new interdisciplinary methodologies, our research will develop findings and recommendations arising from investigating the core impacts of AI on African societies. The intention is that this will form the foundation of a long-term sustainable response to AI, as well as provide frameworks that govern policymaking, implementation and review.


African AI ethics

See research questions

  • What are the ethical challenges facing the development and deployment of AI in diverse African societies?
  • How can we better draw on the rich value systems, cultural codes and traditions of Africa in developing AI ethics principles that are suitable for the region?
  • How can this research help inform discussions around decolonising AI and diversify global debates on AI ethics?


AI and Difference

See research questions

  • How do racial, ethnic, religious, sexual and gender stereotypes, profiling and social prejudices occur in the development and deployment of AI systems in different African contexts?
  • What are the linkages between the representations of women in African AI ecosystems and the development and deployment of biased technologies?
  • What are the implications for gender, ethnic and racial equality of high-risk AI, including affective AI, online disinformation, and predictive policing?
  • What understandings can the African experiences around race, gender, ethnicity and AI offer to the global AI ethics debate?


AI and Democracy

See research questions

  • Taking elections as a key marker of political stability in Africa, how are political parties using big data in their campaigns and with what effect for electoral processes?
  • What are the key human rights concerns and impacts of AI in diverse African contexts?
  • How can the privacy, autonomy and self-determination of African peoples best be protected in the context of increasing digital growth?
  • What effect is AI having on customary and traditional governance systems in Africa?
  • How can public understanding of AI and its effects, including how these systems shape the way in which information is engaged with online, be promoted in local contexts?
  • What impact is AI having on fragile democracies in Africa?


Corporate accountability and public integrity in AI

See research questions

  • What effect are unfair technologies transfers having on democracy and human rights in Africa?
  • What regulatory frameworks are needed, or require amendment, at national and regional levels to protect states and their citizens against exploitation in the development, importation and transfer of AI?
  • How can we engage our findings in this research theme to understand deeper what the decolonisation of AI must entail?
  • How can state sovereignty to protect the rights of its citizens be promoted in the face of AI corporate power?