In his keynote address at the 11th edition of the Digital Africa Conference and Exhibition in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, Prof. Umar Danbatta, the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), emphasized that Africa has the capability to overcome significant challenges such as poverty, food security, and access to healthcare by embracing and implementing Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Prof. Danbatta highlighted the potential of AI in offering solutions to the pressing issues faced by African nations and the continent as a whole.
“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.”
However, he noted Africa must address several critical factors to fully embrace the benefits of AI.
“First, we must invest in building the necessary digital infrastructure. This includes expanding broadband connectivity.
“In Nigeria, as at July 2023, broadband penetration stood at 47.01%. Also, the continent must commit to ensuring reliable power supply and fostering a conducive regulatory environment. Without robust infrastructure, the potential of AI will remain untapped, and the digital divide will further widen.
“Secondly, we must prioritize digital skills development. AI technologies require a skilled workforce capable of developing, deploying, and maintaining these systems. We need to invest in education and training programs 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,” Danbatta explained
According to Danbatta, “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.”
In addition, he emphasized the importance of collaborative efforts and partnerships involving governments, regulatory bodies, academia, the private sector, and civil society in Africa. These alliances are vital in unleashing the full potential of AI in the region.
“By working together, we can share knowledge, pool resources together, and leverage expertise to drive innovation and create an enabling environment for AI adoption,” he said.
He promised Nigerians and Africans of the readiness of the NCC to fully support the adoption and deployment of AI.
“The Nigerian Communications Commission is fully committed to supporting the development and deployment of AI technologies in Nigeria and across the continent. We are working to create an enabling regulatory framework that promotes innovation while safeguarding the interests of consumers and citizens. We are also collaborating with stakeholders to establish AI research and development centres, incubation hubs, and startup ecosystems to nurture homegrown AI talent.”