Artificial Intelligence in Africa is on a Roll!



Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Africa is on a roll as can been seen with the dramatic increase in AI-related events on the Machine Intelligence Institute of Africa (MIIA) events calendar in 2018 (see also a list of past and upcoming events in 2018 below with a crescendo of events in September). It has been a privilege and a great shared learning experience to participate in most of them across South Africa as well as in Geneva, Switzerland (AI for Good Global Summit and an United Nations AI conference) and we are looking forward to the upcoming ones such as the AI Expo AfricaDeep Learning IndabaITU Telecom’s Smart ABC, an UN conference (with the Future of Life Institute) and an AI Conference in Nigeria. Apart from all these events, there has also been a significant increase in AI-related applications across multiple industries (see also “AI solutions have myriad business benefits“), more collaboration to operationalize AI (amongst corporates, platform businesses, startups, consultation firms, public sector, and academic institutions), a growing collaboration between AI and Data Science related organizations of African countries (e.g. MIIA, Data Science Nigeria, AIMS, Zindi, etc.), a range of Accelerator programmes across Africa (e.g., I recently graded some startups in Facebook’s accelerator programme in Nigeria), as well as competitions and hackathons (e.g., Data Science Nigeria). See also a selection of previous posts that showcase some of the early traction on the African continent: “AI for Good – African Perspective“; “AI: Policy Reflections & Future Strategies“; “Exciting AI Developments in Africa and Beyond!“; “Machine Intelligence Institute of Africa 2018“;  “Machine Intelligence Institute of Africa – Seasons Greetings” and “Deep Learning in Africa“). As a Machine Intelligence Institute of Africa (MIIA) community along with our partners we are on a mission to use exponential technologies such as AI, IoT and Blockchain, as well as the operationalization of Big Data & Analytics and Data Science to help transform Africa and shape a better future in the Smart Technology Era.


Although there is an increasing interest from African governments to get involved in Smart Technologies and the 4th Industrial Revolution (e.g., “BRICS must collaborate to shape Industry 4.0 tech, says Ramaphosa“), African countries are lacking with respect to having national strategies in this regard. In the case of South Africa, there are also questions about readiness for AI (e.g., “Why South Africa is not ready for an AI-powered future“, and “Is SA prepared for AI?“). As AI is seen by many countries as a means to economic growth and social progress (see also “AI to contribute significantly to global economic growth“), we have countries such as China, India, Japan, France and the European Union getting involved in crafting bold plans for AI. Without an AI strategy of its own, African countries risks falling behind. From Tim Dutton’s Overview of AI National Strategies, it is clear that the race to become the global leader in AI has officially begun. For example, over the last two years, China, Canada, Denmark, the EU Commission, Finland, France, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Nordic-Baltic region, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, Taiwan, the UAE, and the UK have all released strategies to promote the use and development of AI. From the African continent, Kenya and Tunisia have also been included in this report that is being updated on a regular basis. So we can expect more African countries to be covered in this report.

In Dr Kai-Fu Lee’s talk on “The Future of Artificial Intelligence“, he is asking if we humans are ready for a world increasingly driven by algorithms and models, one domain after another and states that human society will experience an impact 10 times more powerful than the industrial revolution. He also discusses the future of work and how AI will replace and change human roles over the next 3-5, 5-10 and 10-15 years. See also specific pointers in the diagram below on starting early to rethink education.




As Cathy Smith, MD of SAP Africa, mentioned in “The future of work in digital world“, “I have no doubt that the future will not be humans or robots: it will be humans and robots, working side by side. For us, as businesspeople and children of the African continent, we’re on the brink of a major opportunity. We just have to grasp it.”. With respect to 21st-century skills that we need to grasp this opportunity, see also the World Economic Forum’s 21st-century skills article on lifelong learning and skills needed with respect to foundational literacies, competencies (dealing with complex challenges) and character qualities (dealing with changing environments).

From a MIIA perspective, we are keen to contribute in shaping a better future in the Smart Technology Era, and is excited to get more support from our current and new partners to build a strong and innovative Machine Intelligence and Data Science community in Africa to help transform Africa by networking together the critical mass of resources, promote and sponsor learning activities, and strengthen scientific and technological excellence, mentoring and collaboration on the continent. To this end, MIIA is keen to partner with governments, businesses, startup incubators, non profit organizations, universities, and research organizations from around the world to support and help mould the future of Machine Intelligence and Data Science research and applications in Africa.

It is also great to see MIIA’s growth over the last year or so with currently about 2300+ registrations across MIIA social channels. The following diagram also shows the growth path since 2016, including including a range of activities in 2018. See the MIIA events page for more details.



Some of the upcoming events on the 2018 MIIA calendar includes the following:

  • 61. Artificial Intelligence Transforming Human Resources Summit 2018, 15 – 17 August 2018 at the Hackle Brooke Conference Centre in Craig Hall Johannesburg
  • 62. United Nations Conference on Autonomous Weapons, Future of Life Institute, Pretoria, 16-17 August 2018
  • 63. Leaderex 2018, Digital Skills Summit, Sandton Convention Centre, Fourways, Johannesburg, South Africa, 4 September 2018
  • 64. AIExpo Africa 2018, Cape Town, 9-11 September 2018
  • 65. ITU Telecom World 2018, SMART ABC, Artificial Intelligence — Banking — Cities, Durban, South Africa, 10-13 September 2018
  • 66. Deep Learning Indaba, Stellenbosch University, 9-15 September 2018
  • 67. Data Analytics for Customer Intelligence, Johannesburg, 19-20 September 2018
  • 68. Big Data Analytics Master Class for Executives, Africa Data Forum, Johannesburg, 26-27 September 2018
  • 69. Future of Artificial Intelligence in Africa, Pretoria, 1-5 October 2018
  • 70. Nigeria AI Summit 2018, Lagos, Nigeria, 10-14 October 2018
  • 71. PyConZA, Johannesburg, 10-14 October 2018
  • 72. AfricaCom, CTICC, Cape Town, 13-15 November 2018


Some of the past events on the 2018 MIIA calendar (with presentations, videos, photos and other related material of many events shared on the web page) includes the following:

  • 60. Bank Customer Experience Summit Africa 2018, Southern Sun Montecasino, Fourways, Johannesburg, South Africa, 7-8 August 2018
  • 59. ITWeb Artificial Intelligence 2018, The Forum, Bryanston, South Africa, 1-2 August 2018
  • 58. The Blockchain, AI, and the Future of Impact Finance, Cape Town, South Africa, 1 August 2018
  • 57. AI for Businesses & Sustainable Development Goals event at Nedbank Stellenbosch University LaunchLab, Stellenbosch, 4 July 2018
  • 56. Road to Artificial Intelligence, SAS Event, Rosebank, Johannesburg, 28 June 2018
  • 55. Robotics Process Automation & Artificial Intelligence Conference 2018, Indaba Hotel, Fourways, Johannesburg, 20 & 21 June 2018
  • 54. Finnovation Africa: South Africa 2018 – Accelerating the Digital Transformation of Banking & Financial Services, Raddisson Blue Gautrain, Johannesburg, 6 June 2018
  • 53. Sanlam AI Tech Talk, Bellville, South Africa, 29 May 2018
  • 52. Eskom Digital Day, Eskom Park, Witbank, South Africa, 24 May 2018
  • 51. AI: Current Policy Reflections & Future Strategies, United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, 18 May 2018
  • 50. AI for Good Global Summit, Geneva, Switzerland, 15-17 May 2018
  • 49. Global Investors Group, South Africa Securities Finance Masterclass, Raisson Blu Hotel Waterfront, Cape Town, 17 May 2018
  • 48. Rise to the Challenge: Opportunities and Pitfalls in Machine Learning and AI, Rise Cape Town, Woodstock Exchange, Cape Town, 25 April 2018
  • 47. Opportunities and Pitfalls in Machine Learning and AI, PwC, Midrand, 18 April 2018
  • 46. CIO Challenge Conference, The River Club, Cape Town 12 April 2018
  • 45. Deep Learning IndabaX, UCT, Cape Town, 6 April 2018
  • 44. SABEC 2018, 3rd SA Biomedical Engineering Conference 2018, Spier wine Estate, Stellenbosch, 4-6 April 2018
  • 43. AI: Implications and Impact, City.AI, Cape Town, 27 March 2018
  • 42. SatRday, Cape Town, 17 March 2018
  • 41. Building AlphaZero AI using Python and Keras, MIIA Cape Town Meetup, Cape Town, 15 March 2018
  • 40. DataCon Africa 2018, CTICC, Cape Town, 26-28 February 2018
  • 39. Deep Learning Meetup, Cape Town, 20 February 2018
  • 38. Artificial Intelligence Transforming Human Resources Summit 2018, Sandton, 14-16 February 2018



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