When we think of artificial intelligence (AI), we usually picture it alongside bustling, high-tech metropolises of the future, within which it surveys and manages every aspect of our homes, vehicles, streets, environment, and even the planet itself.

What we don’t necessarily equate AI with are low-tech regions of the world like Africa, where there’s seemingly little use for its application. That’s a perception that may be slightly understandable, but which is nonetheless completely wrong says Sanjeev Mansotra, a successful businessman and skilled entrepreneur.

When it comes to Africa and AI, there may be no more important match in the world. AI has the potential to help tackle many of the biggest problems facing the continent, including everything from fighting the spread of disease through better detection and treatment to improving crop yields through better weather predicting and soil and crop monitoring. 

In return, Africa’s population, by far the youngest and fastest-growing on the planet, can help broaden the reach and progress of AI while putting it to use tackling some of the world’s most pressing humanitarian issues. 

AI Institutions Opening Their Doors Across Africa

Google opened an AI research center in Ghana last year, its first on the continent, where it hopes to develop innovative solutions to some of the unique challenges facing African people. One example is developing AI that can instantly translate between any of Africa’s more than 2,000 languages, greatly facilitating the communication and collaboration of the continent’s various groups of people. 

AI-based startups have also been launched in Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria, with goals that range from improving security on the continent, to providing better medical access to remote Africans, and improving the governance of Africans in megalopolises like Lagos, Nigeria and Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, two of the most heavily-populated cities in the world.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has also made expanding the role of AI in African society one of its top priorities, believing it to be the surest path to progress for Africa and a better life for its people.

Sanjeev Mansotra, who has aligned many of his businesses and projects towards the goals of aiding and uplifting others, says that one of the core challenges standing in the way of AI’s progress in Africa is the lack of opportunities available for AI education. Currently, Africans are all but forced to study abroad and then return to their homeland, as there are scant few AI-related courses available in African colleges. 

Combating the Proliferation of Dangerous AI

Another core challenge facing AI use in Africa is in how such powerful technologies may be deployed and to what ends. AI put to positive use undoubtedly has incredible power to benefit Africa and other Third World regions. 

However, AI could also be put to negative use, such as through the creation of AI-powered DeepFake videos that could be used by political parties or terrorist organizations to deceive Africans and spread false messages. The use of facial recognition technology by the Zimbabwean government, in partnership with China, has also raised human rights concerns.

Given those valid concerns, Sanjeev Mansotra believes it’s that much more important for AI education and development to be prioritized in Africa, pushing positive AI applications ahead of the curve and giving the continent the best opportunity to leverage the power of AI for the benefit of all its citizens.