Africa must commit to ensuring reliable power supply and fostering a conducive regulatory environment, arguing that without robust infrastructure, the potential of AI will remain untapped, and the digital divide will further widen
Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta has said that for Africa to fully embrace the benefits of Artificial Intelligence (AI), she must address several critical factors including investing in building the necessary digital infrastructure and expanding broadband connectivity.
Presenting a keynote address at the 2023 edition of the Digital Africa Conference & Exhibition held in Abuja September 19-20, 2023, Danbatta said in addition to the aforementioned factors, Africa must commit to ensuring reliable power supply and fostering a conducive regulatory environment, arguing that without robust infrastructure, the potential of AI will remain untapped, and the digital divide will further widen.
Represented at the event by Dr. Emilia Nwokolo, Head, Consumer Information and Education at the NCC, Danbatta asserted because AI technologies require a skilled workforce capable of developing, deploying, and maintaining these systems, Africa must prioritise digital skills development.
“We need to invest in education and training programmes that equip our youth with the necessary skills to participate in the AI-driven economy. By nurturing a generation of AI experts, we can elevate Africa’s position in the global AI landscape and create job opportunities for our youth.
“Moreover, ethical considerations must underpin our approach to AI. As we deploy AI systems, we must ensure transparency, accountability, and fairness. We must guard against biases, protect privacy and data security, and uphold human rights. AI should be a force for good, promoting inclusivity and leaving no one behind,” he said.
The EVC noted that collaboration and partnerships are also crucial in unlocking the potential of AI in Africa and insisted that the Continent must foster collaboration among governments, regulatory bodies, academia, the private sector, and civil society, adding that by working together, African countries can share knowledge, pool resources together, and leverage expertise to drive innovation and create an enabling environment for AI adoption.
While pledging NCC’s commitment to supporting the development and deployment of AI technologies in Nigeria and across the continent, Danbatta disclosed that the telecom regulator is working to create an enabling regulatory framework that promotes innovation while safeguarding the interests of consumers and citizens.
Noting that the theme of this year’s conference, “Artificial Intelligence and Africa,” offers the Continent a glimpse into the immense possibilities that lie ahead, Danbatta further disclosed that the NCC is also collaborating with stakeholders to establish AI research and development centres, incubation hubs, and startup ecosystems to nurture homegrown AI talent.
He expressed the belief that AI will play a pivotal role in shaping Africa’s digital future and posited that its potential to revolutionize industries, enhance productivity, and improve the quality of life for citizens cannot be overstated, adding that the technology has emerged as one of “the most transformative technologies of our time.”
“In recent years, we have witnessed remarkable advancements in AI across various sectors, including healthcare, agriculture, finance, transportation, education, and even governance. AI-powered solutions have the potential to address some of Africa’s most pressing challenges, such as limited access to healthcare, food security, financial inclusion, and infrastructure development.
“AI holds the power to transform our societies, drive economic growth, and improve the well-being of our people. Let us seize this opportunity and work together to build an inclusive, sustainable, and AI-powered Africa,” he concluded.