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Humans won’t be replaced by AI, they will be replaced by humans using AI

As African businesses and leaders aim to deeply understand both the opportunities and threats that AI presents the continent, the emerging technology is only at the infancy stage. Dr Williams and Jania are at the forefront of the adoption and usage lifecycle and share their perspectives on the second trend in the Deloitte Tech Trends 2024 report, ‘Genie out of the bottle: Generative AI as growth catalyst’. 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is top of mind for leaders and has become a real buzz term in conversations now, regardless that AI has been around for years. When the topic comes up, it is usually followed by statements such as, ‘AI is going to replace my job’, or ‘AI is going to take over the world’.

In Africa, we are witnessing the great conundrum, ‘balancing the excitement of business and governments with the harsh reality that the adoption and implementation of Generative AI (Gen AI) requires hefty investment’. This is especially important when considering that Africa faces some of the most significant socio-economic-political challenges, and this is where investment is being allocated. Understandably. 

Everyone wants a piece of the action, but many executives don’t quite know the extent of the opportunity (and the challenge) that Gen AI presents their business, and the continent. 

Gen AI represents the next step in the evolution of AI, - it can learn patterns from large amounts of data, enabling the platform to create anything from text, images, video to audio. What excites us is its ability to pick-up the nuances of a diverse continent such as Africa – from demographic, voice, language to dialect. 

Now Africa can build personalised solutions with local nuances factored in, helping bring Gen AI to the forefront for those who are not tech-savvy, making it easy to use thus boosting adoption. This coupled with the fact that Africa is a hub of technology innovators, locally relevant solutions will start emerging. Consider a local education solution, developed by a tech-preneur on the continent or a medical innovation to overcome issues of access.

With villages in remote locations on the continent, children often don’t have access to schools. Gen AI can put an expert tutor in front of every single child at a very low cost via a computer, laptop or tablet. The reality however is that most of these remote locations do not have the necessary infrastructure and have little to no access to electricity. If we can overcome these infrastructure challenges, we can link educators from around the world with students. The opportunities are endless.

Even with the obvious benefits, the adoption of Gen AI has not accelerated. Regardless of a willingness from businesses (and governments), readiness to implement – even at a pilot phase – remains the issue. This is not just an Africa issue. 

Gen AI must link to the business strategy and processes to be effective, and this requires deep and consistent investment. Without discounting this hurdle, we are witnessing two key industries in West Africa taking a leap. The financial services and telecoms industries are investing in the Cloud revolution, with focus on Cloud hyper scalers aimed at supporting with the implementation of Gen AI. 

By utilising these technologies together, solutions for sectors such as agriculture can be developed. Agriculture remains one of the most important industries on the continent. The industry is largely made up of subsistence farmers and only a few commercial farmers. Farming is knowledge intensive; the right insight will mean the difference between having a yield or not. It comes down to how to engage with farmers, sharing insights via some sort of interface or device providing the imaging interface that is easy to understand. This could be a Cloud-based Gen AI driven interface. 

By accelerating the adoption of these technology solutions, we can accelerate economies growth. 

Word of caution, even once implemented correctly, Gen AI will not be a ‘genie’ ready to solve all business’s problems. Gen AI should be seen as a co-pilot, with business leaders still firmly in the driver’s seat. The importance of a Gen AI framework is critical, to ensure the ethical use of the technology which ensures a trust-based approach is followed. 

Trust and Gen AI may seem for many as a contradiction, this is however not true. Once all players in the ecosystem, including the public sector, create and implement a clear framework that allows for the freedom to innovate with confidence. The role of the Chief Ethics or AI officer will become of greater significance. 

Without wanting to sound cliched, Africa must lay a foundation for future Gen AI adoption. Once all facets are in place the endless opportunities will be uncovered and real impact achieved. Organisations in Africa must create an ethical Gen AI framework, public-private collaboration, meaningful infrastructure changes, investment and focus on grooming future talent. The question is not when Gen AI will influence the way we operate, it is how will business plan to maximise the opportunity?

Since gen AI technology exploded on the scene, many enterprises have been scrambling to determine how their businesses might benefit. The answer might be simpler than they think. Read our Global insights.

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