Why Africa’s Future Growth Lies With Big Data And Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence and big data have already revolutionized several industries throughout the world, creating new opportunities for economic advancement and the improvement of daily life. The current technological revolution can be compared to the industrial revolution of the 1740s, however, the reforms brought on by the industrial revolution was slow to reach Africa. 

The technological revolution, on the other hand, has the potential to dramatically change the fortunes of the continent and its people quickly. In this post, we will be taking a closer look at how big data and artificial intelligence can improve the life of the average African. 

Vast Untapped Potential 

recent report suggested that Africa’s digital economy can contribute up to $ 180bn to the global economy. This is further reinforced by the fact that global players in the IT industry like Google, IBM and Microsoft have all made large investments in the continent. 

In addition to this, these companies have also committed to continued investment in the improvement of talent and skills amongst the citizens of Africa which can be of great benefit to every African country and, ultimately, the world.

Africa has traditionally relied on primary economical activities such as agriculture and mining or tourism for the bulk of its gross domestic product but artificial intelligence and big data has the power to reshape the economy of the continent to closely resemble that of other highly developed nations. 

One of Africa’s biggest advantages in the AI race is the fact that almost 60% of the continent’s population is under 25 years of age. These young people are ready to embrace the multitude of new opportunities that technology offers, and they are also the people who will benefit the most from the opportunities that are bringing Africa into the digital age offers. 

Artificial Intelligence & Big Data Create New Opportunities 

The internet has opened a myriad of new opportunities for people to earn a living that is not dependent on agriculture or mining activities. eCommerce, for example, makes it possible for anyone with a computer, internet connection and some IT knowledge to earn a living online.

Opportunities such as selling goods online or providing services to customers located on the other side of the globe used to be the preserve of other more developed nations with readily available internet connections but improved internet connections have made it possible for Africans to enjoy the same freedom. 

AI has also made it easier to access vital resources such as education and healthcare. Africa has a huge demand for quality education but lacks the financial and human resources to reach every learner. By delivering online education, more people can be reached which further promotes the development of individuals and the continent. 

Artificial intelligence can be used to analyze the available data on students to create a clear map of the student’s needs and, ultimately, create an educational programme that truly adds value to every student’s life. 

Artificial Intelligence Can Improve Health Care Accessibility 

Access to health care is a big problem for many Africans and AI can help to alleviate this problem. Artificial intelligence can be used alongside doctors to provide easier access to healthcare through telemedicine. Systems driven by AI can be used to screen patients before they see a virtual doctor to help identify any problems based on their symptoms and previous health records. This will lessen the workload of the limited number of doctors while giving patients more affordable and readily available healthcare.

Photo by Hush Naidoo Jade Photography on Unsplash

One example of AI being used in medicine is screening patients for Coronavirus by providing them with a self-checker that can assess their symptoms and suggest an appropriate course of action. In addition to telemedicine, AI and big data can be used to train new medical staff and assist them in making more informed decisions with regards to the treatment that they offer to their patients. 

Artificial Intelligence is Critical in the Finance Sector 

Artificial intelligence is particularly useful in the finance sector where it can be used to speed up transactions, perform analytics and support the general functioning of payment systems.

Banks and other financial institutions can use AI-powered tools to educate their customers on how best to manage their money and increase their savings. AI can also be used to develop banking products such as loans that meet the needs of African clients better than the general products that are currently on offer. 

Which Challenges Does AI Face on the African Continent? 

Although AI brings many advantages to the African continent and its citizens, it also has a few hurdles to jump before becoming a mainstream part of daily life on the continent. Legislation governing digital services is still in its infancy in many African countries. Data privacy is not as regulated or protected as in other countries, which creates the opportunity for companies to abuse personal data obtained from African citizens.

There is also a lack of talent in the AI sector in the African continent, which means that more people need to be educated in the field to support the growing use of AI in Africa. However, the hurdles that AI faces in Africa pales in comparison to the opportunities that it can provide to the continent.

In Conclusion 

IT, AI and big data are all equally important for the future development of the African economy and if used correctly these tools can significantly reduce Africa’s reliance on minerals and agriculture as its main or only source of income. The young population in Africa are ideally positioned to drive the acceptance of AI forward and unlock its potential which will not only benefit Africa but also the rest of the world. Africa’s future is truly artificially intelligent and digitally enabled. 

Author Bio: Greg Tuohy is the director of Docutec, a business printer and automation software provider. 

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