Global tech giants in Africa AI gold rush

Microsoft, IBM, Huawei, Nvidia, Google and others lining up to tap into multibillion-dollar opportunity

More than 100 tech companies from across the globe will feature in the ‘AI Everything forum’ at this year’s GITEX Africa 2024, the continent’s premier tech and startup event.
NASCENT MARKET: More than 100 tech companies from across the globe will feature in the ‘AI Everything forum’ at this year’s GITEX Africa 2024, the continent’s premier tech and startup event.

Multinationals are opening a new battle front to shape the development, use and governance of artificial intelligence in Africa, as countries on the continent rush to create their own AI policies.

Global technology giants including Microsoft, IBM, Huawei, Nvidia and Google are lining up to tap into a multibillion-dollar opportunity in the nascent Artificial Intelligence (AI) market.

The five multinationals top the list of more than 100 tech companies across the globe that will feature in the “AI Everything” forum at this year’s GITEX Africa 2024, the continents premier tech and start-up event.

Organisers of the event, scheduled to take place from May 29 to 31, 2024, in Marrakesh, Morocco, said the conference offered tech titans an opportunity to engage and forge fresh connections with pioneering African start-ups, business angels and thought leaders.

Microsoft continues to increase its AI investments on the continent by forging strategic partnerships and supporting key dialogue forums, including being GITEX Africa’s official AI partner. 

Microsoft Africa president Lillian Barnard said AI could unlock a continent “brimming with investment opportunity.”

“Africa has long been recognised for its formidable growth prospects and AI is the long-awaited key to help unlock that potential,” Barnard said.

GITEX Africa organisers say Africa’s AI opportunity has begun disrupting digital advancements in the finance, agriculture, healthcare and mobility sectors, fuelling a booming AI market that is expected to grow 30% annually over the next six years, reaching a value of $17bn (R317.53bn) by 2030, according to Statista.

Microsoft believes AI-powered innovation is poised to reinvent every aspect of society, from health care to financial services, manufacturing and beyond.

“If Africa is to benefit from the paradigm shift currently sweeping the globe, we must make the promise of AI real for people and organisations across the continent — and do so responsibly,” Barnard said.

In Africa, Microsoft is collaborating with government, businesses and start-ups in Egypt, Kenya, Morocco and South Africa to implement AI solutions to improve government services, expand businesses and foster innovation.

In Kenya, the tech giant is using AI to address climate and sustainability challenges in food and water security, while in Morocco, AI is improving water conservation efforts.

In SA, Microsoft is partnering with key sectors to optimise healthcare systems and manage urban infrastructure, reshaping public service delivery and addressing societal challenges.

IBM is betting on its global upskilling programme to make AI inroads into the continent.

The technology giant is partnering with key university partners and organisations to deliver AI training and generative AI coursework, aiming to train twomillion learners globally, focusing on underrepresented communities, over the next three years.

Google is seeking Africa’s AI opportunities through funding start-ups that address Africa’s critical areas such as health care, education, agriculture, finance and sustainability.

In April, the giant search engine expressed interest to invest in African start-ups leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) through its Startups Accelerator Africa programme.

Several African countries are developing and implementing AI strategies to take advantage of this innovative technology.

In December 2023, Rwanda became the first African country to publish an AI strategy to harness AI’s benefits while mitigating its risks.

Egypt and Mauritius have also published their own national AI strategies, with several other countries, including Nigeria, Kenya and SA, at different stages of creating similar strategies.

Africa’s first AI research centre, the African Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence, was launched in Brazzaville, Congo, in 2022, making the country a significant regional hub for developing emerging technologies.

The development of artificial intelligence has led to new diplomatic alignments, with the US and China positioning their countries and companies for the expected opportunities.

China’s top cyberspace regulator in April pledged to deepen the push for AI governance with African countries at a China-Africa internet forum.

Cyberspace Administration of China director Zhuang Rongwen said the country would work with Africa to share opportunities brought by the information revolution and improve the global internet governance system.

UAE Big data analytics firm chief operations officer Dr Adel Alsharji said Africa’s AI journey was gaining momentum, and this progress highlighted the continent’s readiness to explore and harness the potential of AI for driving economic growth and addressing local challenges.

“Africa is the second-fastest growing region globally in AI adoption.

“Demand for AI-related jobs will increase two-fold over the next three years.

“AI could add $13-trillion [R242.73-trillion] to the global economy by 2030, while the number of AI-related jobs in Africa alone is expected to grow by 200% by 2025.”

Africa has a rapidly growing population of 1.5-billion people — of which 70% are under the age of 30 — which pundits believe will create a potent recipe of AI acceleration in Africa. — bird story agency


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