AI Report on Southern Africa

Executive Summary
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has rapidly become a constant in most people’s lives through
its application in commerce, education, health, public service delivery, communications,
governance, agriculture, and manufacturing.
While most AI tools originated in the United States, Europe, and China, developing and
adopting AI is slow in Southern Africa. Yet, AI tools have the potential to address some of
the most pressing issues in Africa by promoting economic growth, enhancing agricultural
systems, enabling higher-quality education, and addressing health and climate challenges,
thanks to the increasing availability of computational power, improved connectivity, and
Applications of AI in Southern Africa are in their early stages. Many pilot projects and
technology-driven business models demonstrate the potential for AI to benefit underserved
populations, better connect local communities and international technology firms, and
improve lives.
However, as with other emerging technologies, from cryptocurrency to 5G, AI presents
challenges and new opportunities, especially as it transitions from Western settings to
African contexts.
Broadly speaking, these challenges fall into three categories. The first is the deficiencies in AI
readiness, i.e., technology capacity and policymaking faced by African countries. The second
set of challenges and the focus of this paper are deficiencies inherent to the “architecture” of
AI systems and how they are developed.
The third challenge will include the misuse of AI. For the developing world, AI is already
contributing in many ways: to target humanitarian relief, address climate impacts, and
support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Yet in Southern Africa, most countries lack comprehensive policy frameworks to incentivise
responsible AI, regulate AI-driven business models, or effectively promote the creation and
capture of high-quality African data. This research seeks to provide evidence-based findings
on the extent of the uptake of AI in Southern Africa, AI readiness, and the role of AI in aiding
information disorders during elections.
Southern Africa is a large region with 15 countries and a diverse cultural, economic, and
political environment. As a result, the adoption of AI may differ from country to country.
Africa has historically been at the rear end of industrial revolutions, playing catch-up. With
the correct mix of policy and drive, the region can leapfrog and catch up with its peers in the


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