Artificial intelligence (AI) and Generative AI offer enormous opportunities for the African continent in areas such as healthcare, education, financial inclusion, and agriculture.
During a media workshop on the potential of AI in the African context organized by Microsoft for journalists from across Africa, AI experts emphasized the importance of AI in transforming the four critical sectors for the benefit of the majority of the population.
The forum heard that, while still in its early stages, Generative AI is rapidly maturing and appears to be one of the most important technologies of our time. It has already sparked significant interest and investment, with Generative AI startups receiving $20 billion in funding over the last three years. The launch of ChatGPT last year, for example, with its underlying language-model AI technology, raised public awareness of the power of Generative AI technology, with new use cases emerging daily.
“Generative AI can create data-driven, customized, and specific content that is accessible by millions and has the potential to address many of the continent’s societal challenges,” one expert said, adding that while AI is no silver bullet, it certainly can make a transformative contribution to easing societal difficulties.
In healthcare, for instance, AI can function as an assistant, transcribing and summarizing each consultation and automatically keeping patient records regularly updated. That will enable doctors and nurses to spend less time on administrative tasks and more time on patients. AI can also support personalized diagnosis and treatment recommendations for patients, by using AI-driven analyses of data and taking account of available inventory in hospital pharmacies. This support in diagnosis and treatment, and the alignment on available drugs, will again free up time for doctors to spend with patients and will improve patient care and experience.
In rural public hospitals and clinics, where the doctor-patient ratio is likely to be lower, it is even more difficult for people to get the medical care they need. AI can address some of these healthcare issues, the session heard.
AI can assist with educational policy, curricula, and content creation. AI can inform policy decisions, design curriculum, and create learning materials by analyzing massive amounts of data. The new content can be tailored to different grade levels and individual students as well as delivered in the student’s preferred language. AI can also assist teachers in planning daily lessons and suggesting methods for explaining complex concepts.
“In schools lacking adequate resources and materials, teachers cannot teach their classes as effectively as they might. With the help of AI, however, they will be able to produce stimulating visual aids and easy-to-understand explanations in their daily classes. In that way, they can bring abstract topics to life and sharpen their students’ critical thinking,” the workshop heard. “AI should also eventually fine-tune lesson plans for the teachers, and produce tailored materials.”
When it comes to financial inclusion, one way AI can help is by making financial services more accessible to customers. Banks can save customers the inconvenience of going to branches and waiting for a banking consultant by deploying AI-powered chatbots to handle routine client queries and provide timely responses. Aside from communicating in a client’s native language, financial institutions can increase transparency on products and services, as well as client trust, by using chatbots that consistently respond accurately.
AI can also help provide personalized recommendations and improve financial literacy, as well as speed up the drafting of legal documents and assist customers in explaining relevant terms in plain language, the forum was told.
Finally, in agriculture, AI can help farmers improve the efficiency and sustainability of their farming practices. Farmers can use sensors, drones, and satellites to collect real-time crop data, such as soil health, water usage, crop growth, and pest presence. This data can then be analyzed by AI algorithms, and the results can help farmers decide how to best use resources and maximize crop yields. AI can also improve crop health monitoring by detecting diseases and increasing financial access for smallholder farmers through better credit scoring.