Observatory Partner Research

Observatory partners across the continent are actively researching a range of topics related to AI policy and governance

Social Justice Considerations in Developing and Deploying AI in Africa

Elefelious Getachew Belay

Social injustice spans across all societies around the world (developed or developing) and not peculiar  to specific context or region (Tyler, 2012). Putting aside the opportunities of digital technologies (i.e  equalize access) for Africa society, it has also created a new form of inequalities (Hsieh et al., 2018) such as social media being used to promote or demonize specific groups. This goes on various aspects  of society and will affect different dimensions of justice (such as distributive, procedural, interactional, retributive and  restorative). Therefore, there needs to be consideration of  justice, fairness, equality and inclusion while developing and deploying AI based technologies.It is also paramount to study how context specific values need to be embedded in the development and deployment of AI to promote social good. This study, among others, intends to address the following questions;

  • How do ethnic and gendered stereotypes, profiling and social prejudices occur in the  development and deployment of AI systems in Ethiopia? 
  • How can AI promote and foster de jure and de facto equality in Ethiopia context, e.g. access to  fintech to promote financial inclusion?
  • How can we embed African/Ethiopian/local values (Ethical and just) in AI design? 
  • How can AI policy processes address substantive equality for more equitable outcomes?  
  • What are the levels of public understanding and awareness of AI and digital rights? 

Using Fintech to Facilitate Women’s financial Inclusion – A Survey of Products and Services in Nigeria

Adekemi Omotubora

Gender Equality is entrenched as a fundamental right, and equal access to financial services offers women more opportunities for economic participation and avoiding poverty. AI is poised to play an important role in access to finance and holds great promise for closing the gender gap in financial inclusion. However, its potential has remained largely unrealised, particularly in Nigeria, with one of the world's highest gender financial inclusion gaps. Recent policies at national and international levels have identified innovative laws and regulations as essential mechanisms for counteracting the factors that affect women's use of digital technologies. The UN SDG 5, for example, recognises digital technology as a viable instrument for achieving its overarching goal of leaving no one behind (LNOB) and specifically for reducing overall gender inequality. This project aims to provide the necessary theoretical and conceptual background for reforming regulatory approaches to AI to facilitate women’s financial inclusion.

AI Localism and Governance in Africa: A study on technical, legal and regulatory opportunities and challenges in the governance of AI technologies

Oluka Pross Nagitta

This  report argues that while AI will continue to drive future policy decision-making in economics, employment, healthcare, and justice, it is important that policy makers develop a better understanding and new knowledge where there is alignment between governance and the governed, and between man and machine (Butcher et al., 2021). To do that, it shall explore three key sub-themes in the responsible AI discourse, i.e., the technology transfer dynamics in the global south, the establishment of rights framework, and the governance of AI design and deployment in the global south. 

Are Certain African Ethical Values at Risk from Artificial Intelligence?

Samuel Segun

This paper questions how the drive towards introducing artificial intelligence (AI) in all facets of life might endanger certain African ethical values. It argues in the affirmative that indeed two primary values that are prized in nearly all versions of sub-Saharan African ethics (available in the literature) might sit in direct opposition to the fundamental motivation of corporate adoption of artificial intelligence; these values are Afro-communitarianism grounded on relationality, and human dignity grounded on a normative conception of personhood. This paper offers a unique perspective to AI ethics from the African place, as there is little to no material in the literature that discusses the implications of AI on African ethical values. The paper is divided into two broad sections that are focused on (i) describing the values at risk from AI and (ii) showing how current use of artificial intelligence undermines these said values. In conclusion, I suggest how to prioritize these values in working toward the establishment of an African AI ethics framework. 

Digital Communities, New Affective and Sexual Socializations in Cameroon

Parfait Akana

This research aims to propose a rigorous description of new modes of sexual and affective socialization in force on some of the digital social networks (WhatsApp, Telegram and Facebook) frequented by Cameroonians. It will show that the domains of sexuality do not escape the grip of techno-colonialism, which appears not only as an amplifier of possibilities and the medium of a babel of fantasies, but also as the revelation of a great thirst, of the suffering of individuals incarcerated in oppressive desires, and for whom certain digital platforms represent an opportunity to get out of the prison of the "it"... The work will be carried out from the perspective of an involved netnography that reveals the multiple resonances of "technical democracy" and technicist capitalism in the sexual and affective adventure of the digital age.