Plans to launch the first African-led Artificial Intelligence Research Center have been unveiled by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A partnership agreement to develop the project was signed earlier this month by the Republic of the Congo, where the new center will be based, and ECA during the official opening ceremony of the 7th session of the African Regional Forum on Sustainable Development.
The United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the International Telecommunications Union will also support the project.
“It will be the first initiative of this kind on the African continent,” said Mactar Seck, of ECA’s Division of Technology, Climate Change and Natural Resources Division. “This Center will not only develop artificial intelligence but also help to tackle some ethical issues around AI.”
The signing of the agreement follows a speech given last week at the third Africa Regional Science, Technology and Innovation Forum in Brazzaville, the Republic of the Congo by Vera Songwe, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the ECA.
She claimed that Africa could expand its economy by a staggering $1.5 trillion dollars, by capturing just 10% of the speedily growing artificial intelligence (AI) market, set to reach $15.7 trillion by 2030.
The aim of the Center is to improve the level of Artificial Intelligence research in Congo and in Africa in general, use AI to foster economic and social development, and develop close collaboration between academia and the industrial sector in AI and robotics across the continent.
It will also pursue opportunities to partner with major artificial intelligence research centers around the world.
“Africa has made enormous progress in these technologies, “added Seck, who is a key player in the project. “Artificial intelligence is one of the emerging technologies and according to various studies, it offers more development opportunities to the continent and could significantly contribute to creating more jobs.
He added: “The world is projected to witness a 33% growth in the artificial intelligence economy over the next five years; not to mention that the sector can generate up to 4.3 billion dollars for the African continent within that time.
Speaking about why Congo was chosen as the base for the Center Seck said: “The choice of Congo takes into account the special relations that ECA has with the country, in particular, the establishment of an information and communication platform for health and economic action in order to combat COVID-19. Congo has shown leadership in addressing the pandemic and has a progressive university environment which presents many opportunities for the development of technologies and the vision of President Denis Sassou Nguesso.”
Mack stressed that there would be “very close collaboration between the Congo and the countries of the sub-region, as well as all the other countries of the continent. “In collaboration with its partners, ECA intends to support African countries and will do everything in its power to ensure that the Center can be a vehicle for improving research in artificial intelligence for the benefit of all African countries.”