Highlights of the UVU Africa Networking Session: State of AI in Africa 2023

Gathering for one last event for the year, tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and some of the brightest minds in the AI industry convened at the UVU Africa Networking Session to discuss the current state and future possibilities of AI in Africa. The event was hosted by UVU Africa and AI Media.  

Speakers included Dr Nick Bradshaw Editor & CEO of AI Media Group, Kerushan Govender CEO of Blackfox, Celina Lee, CEO and co-founder of Zindi and Arno Smit, Chief Product Officer at BIOCertica.  

The session kicked off with Dr Nick Bradshaw sharing his report of the State of AI in Africa.  

The report states that “Artificial Intelligence in Africa (like Fin Tech before it) is a cross cutting technology that has the potential to revolutionize and impact many industry sectors, aspects of society and the world of work in Africa. We found companies operating in 121 different industry sectors ranging from Health, Wellness & Fitness to Farming, Law, Training & Insurance to name but a few. This is a significant growth opportunity for governments, entrepreneurs, investors, SMEs and innovators to leverage these technologies to improve and disrupt traditional industries, both in terms of job creation and new products and services.”  

Dr Nick shared that “even though Africa doesn’t seem like the right market for AI opportunities, it’s successfully being used in various sectors. People in Africa are resourceful and are building incredible things.” So far, South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt & Kenya are the dominant players in the AI sector in Africa. 

After sharing his report findings, Dr Nick joined the rest of the speakers for a panel discussion and Q&A hosted by Marietjie Engelbrecht, Head of Marketing, Ecosystem & Township Economy at UVU Africa. The speakers shared their thoughts on inclusivity, ethics, laws, legislations, possibilities, and the future of AI.  

What key realities do you think people need to understand about AI?  

Kerushan: AI is beautifully democratised but it’s still an infant technology, it can only remotely resemble some of the things humans can do. We need to understand that AI is going to be advancing every day, but we shouldn’t be scared of it as long as we set ourselves up to exploit the technology for our own benefit. 

What are the ethical considerations for AI? 

Arno Smit: Since we work with sensitive, private information, we need to follow best practices to follow the guidelines. When using AI, organizations will need stronger policies to safeguard against data breaches and unauthorized access to sensitive information. 

Celina Lee: There needs to be representation at every level. Since AI mimics humans, the results will be biased. If we’re using historical data, such as containing gender or racial biases, AI systems may learn and perpetuate those biases.  

What are the biggest AI opportunities for South Africans? 

Kerushan: AI will make entrepreneurship more accessible. It has greatly reduced the costs of business essentials, such as marketing. AI will reduce costs and maximize output. Especially in Cape Town, Africa’s hub of entrepreneurship, where the highest percentage of start ups in the country are based.  

The panelists also spoke about the importance of collaboration and African countries working together to centre the continent in the global AI dialogue. Making Dr Nick Bradshaw’s closing report statements all the more impactful. “While the overall picture is positive, we are still in the early stages of the development of this sector. ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together’ speaks well to the power of catalytic communities to stimulate inclusive engagement that in turn generates more opportunities for growth, jobs and investment.”  

Follow us on social media for more updates on trending tech and other exciting events in the innovation space.  

Fiona Tabraham

Fiona Tabraham is a strategic workforce development expert with a career founded on a resolute commitment to inclusivity, talent nurturing, and societal impact. Chief Executive of CAPACITI Digital Career Accelerator, Fiona’s passion for equity has charted pathways across numerous organisations, guiding bespoke Talent Initiatives, Future Leadership Development Programs, and transformative Career Pathway Development. Her tenure at Network Rail bore inclusive talent strategies, STEM advocacy, and innovative Graduate, Apprentice, and Internship initiatives. A trusted partner to a number of governmental, corporate and impact driven entities, Fiona empowers individuals and organisations, fostering diverse recruitment practices and innovative talent strategies. Fiona’s impact transcends the tech sector, positioning her as a leading voice for inclusive digital career initiatives.