Embracing the future power of artificial intelligence (AI) is a priority of technology giant Microsoft, as the company works to advance digital transformation across Africa.
With AI set to revolutionise business operations across the continent, Microsoft is clear in a recent report that countries across Africa must be prepared for AI. It highlights that building core skills and upskilling existing talent is required to facilitate faster AI adoption, in order to enable AI to be leveraged for sustainable growth and faster innovation.
With the company predicting that the world’s economy will inflate to US$16tn by 2030 on account of AI, Microsoft highlights in its report that AI holds potential to have a significant impact on Africa’s economic and business prospects.
Ensuring AI is accessible to all
A recent report cited by Microsoft suggests that AI technology could increase Africa’s economy by a remarkable US$1.5tn – a figure that equals to half of the continent’s current gross domestic product (GDP).
The company is working to boost AI expertise across the continent. In particular, Microsoft Africa Research Institute in Nairobi, Kenya, works to build and deploy AI and machine learning solutions that help solve local challenges at a larger scale.
If countries across Africa are able to fully capitalise on AI, the technology could have the ability to make a real difference to the continent’s overall business landscape. For instance, when harnessed responsibly, AI has already demonstrated its ability to revolutionise key industries such as healthcare, education and cybersecurity.
In the near future, continued advances in AI will inevitably lead to a global shift in how people communicate, work and improve their health. It could also work to empower the next generation of workers via the use of AI educational tools.
Countries around the world are already starting to recognise the true potential of responsible AI, with the UK government recently announcing its plans to fund a US$100m boost in AI programming to combat inequalities in Africa. The funding has been pledged as part of an agreement with Canada, the USA and partners in Africa - in addition to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Goals for the UK’s AI for Development programme include unlocking the benefits of AI to the 700 million people who speak 46 African languages and creating or upscaling AI research labs at African universities to help break barriers to entry for African AI innovators.
Likewise, Microsoft’s key position in the Frontier Model Forum cements its focus as an organisation committed to harnessing responsible AI models. Working alongside Anthropic, OpenAI and Google, the forum aims to help advance global research into AI safety and identity safety best practices for frontier models to advance responsible development.
The potential of AI to revolutionise healthcare
The potential for digital transformation in Africa is still developing, but is expected to facilitate the improvement of services such as healthcare.
Already, Microsoft cites that AI-powered diagnostic solutions are being deployed to improve medical imaging analysis in Ghana and Rwanda. These tools can help to assist in early detection of diseases such as breast cancer, HIV and tuberculosis.
Likewise, the company highlights organisations like Zipline that are using AI to improve drone delivery routes for medical supplies and vaccines. As a result, medication access in remote areas has been improved - hopefully leading to early intervention and better patient outcomes.
Microsoft is also keen to recognise the vital importance of local communities in shaping current and future AI developments. It states in its report: “We are dedicated to being a responsible steward of AI technology, ensuring that it is developed and used in ways that benefit all Africans.
“The AI revolution in Africa is not just a possibility; it is already underway. With responsible regulation, partnerships, and a steadfast commitment to responsible and ethical AI, we are poised to unlock a future with unprecedented opportunities.”
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