Musings from the AfricAI Conference 2023

Musings from the AfricAI Conference 2023

I had the great pleasure to be apart of the AfricAI conference in Kigali, Rwanda as a Meta bursary awardee. The discussions, conversations and connections were invaluable and gave me the long-awaited chance to visit the beautiful Land of a Thousand Hills.

Meta Bursary Presentation

The award afforded the opportunity to present my proposed research on AI in education. The research centres on anAfrican perspective of how to overcome challenges facing the African education sector, such as:

·      Challenges relating to poverty (inability to afford the direct and indirect costs of schooling, intergenerational transmission of education resulting in differing attitudes towards the value of formal education)

·      Challenges arising from gender disparities (child marriages, child labor, gender-based violence, discriminatory social institutions, and cultural norms)

·      Challenges stemming from inequality (unequal access to infrastructure and resources, improper school structures)

·      Challenges caused by external factors (economic crises, conflict and security issues, natural disasters)

My work interrogates introduction of automated, school-less and teacher-less education under the guise of efficiency that would further disadvantage the disadvantaged. My research explores the need for embedding AI into African education and whether AI can provide a sustainable remedy.

This approach to contextualising the place of AI in our world sparked significant interest in the work and some intent to contribute to this research.

Conference Highlights

I also attended other sessions,‘Challenges of AI adoption in Africa- The case of South Africa and Rwanda’ and ‘Implementation of the UNESCO Recommendation on Ethics of AI in Southern andEastern Africa’ in which I participated as a panelist. Both sessions highlighted the strides African countries have made toward AI adoption, such as developing AI strategies, enacting data protection frameworks and other enabling laws and policies that support an AI environment, the harms that AI could pose to their countries and the need to erect guardrails against those risks. Despite constant reminders that Africa is not homogeneous, the similarity in roadblocks towards AI adoption among different countries was striking: lack of AI talent, infrastructures, digital literacy, and heavy reliance on the Global West.

Key Takeaways

·      A vibrant and growing AI ecosystem on the continent is keen to shape African narratives, voice the concerns of African people, and participate in global debates around responsible and ethical AI.

·      Many exciting applications of AI can be found around the continent, but most are stuck in the pilot phase due to lack of access to capital, infrastructure such as computing power and African datasets.

·      Africa is at an inflection point regarding AI. We as representatives of the African continent need to define when, by whom, and for what reasons this new technology should and should not be used. AI is giving us a chance to define our own trajectory and establish norms for how it will influence us and our world if we rise to this challenge.