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Africa can tackle poverty with AI – Umar Danbatta



Umar Danbatta, the Executive Vice-Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, believes that Africa can address its challenges of poverty, food insecurity, healthcare, and more through the adoption and deployment of Artificial Intelligence (AI).  

Speaking at the 11th Edition of the Digital Africa Conference and Exhibition in Abuja, under the theme “Artificial Intelligence and Africa,” Danbatta highlighted AI’s potential to offer solutions to major challenges faced by African countries, News Agency of Nigeria reported. 

However, he pointed out that for Africa to fully harness the benefits of AI, several critical factors needed attention. Danbatta emphasized the importance of building the necessary digital infrastructure, including expanding broadband connectivity.

He noted that, as of July 2023, Nigeria’s broadband penetration stood at 47.01%. Additionally, ensuring reliable power supply and creating a conducive regulatory environment were essential steps for AI adoption on the continent, he added.   

Danbatta stressed that without robust infrastructure, AI’s potential would remain untapped, and the digital divide would widen further.   

He also emphasized the need to prioritize digital skills development, as AI technologies require a skilled workforce capable of developing, deploying, and maintaining these systems. Investing in education and training programs to equip the youth with the necessary skills for the AI-driven economy could elevate Africa’s position in the global AI landscape and create job opportunities for its youth.  

Danbatta highlighted the importance of ethical considerations in AI deployment, including transparency, accountability, and fairness. He urged guarding against biases, protecting privacy and data security, and upholding human rights, emphasizing that AI should be a force for good and promote inclusivity.  

Collaboration and partnerships were identified as crucial factors in unlocking AI’s potential in Africa.

Danbatta called for cooperation among governments, regulatory bodies, academia, the private sector, and civil society to share knowledge, pool resources, and leverage expertise for driving innovation and creating an enabling environment for AI adoption.  

He assured Nigerians and Africans of the NCC’s readiness to fully support the adoption and deployment of AI, emphasizing their commitment to creating an enabling regulatory framework, collaborating with stakeholders to establish AI research and development centres, incubation hubs, and startup ecosystems to nurture homegrown AI talent.