By CALLISTUS OFFOR, Abuja –
Executive Vice Chairman/CEO of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, said on Wednesday that Artificial Intelligence-powered solutions have the potential to address some of Africa’s most pressing challenges, such as limited access to healthcare, food security, financial inclusion, and infrastructure development.
In a Keynote address he delivered at the opening ceremony of the 11th edition of the Digital Africa Conference and Exhibition (DACE) in Abuja, Danbatta noted that in recent years, remarkable advancements in AI had been witnessed across various sectors, including healthcare, agriculture, finance, transportation, education, and even governance.
He however stressed that for Africa to fully embrace the benefits of AI, the continent must address several critical factors, one of which is to invest in building the necessary digital infrastructure, including expanding broadband connectivity.
The NCC boss, who was represented at the event by the Head, Consumer Information and Education, NCC, Dr. Emilia Nwokolo, spoke on the theme, “Artificial Intelligence and Africa.”
Secondly, Danbatta said, Africa must prioritize digital skills development, explaining that AI technologies require a skilled workforce capable of developing, deploying, and maintaining these systems.
“We need to invest in education and training programs that equip our youth with the necessary skills to participate in the AI-driven economy. By nurturing a generation of AI experts, we can elevate Africa’s position in the global AI landscape and create job opportunities for our youth,” he said.
“Moreover, ethical considerations must underpin our approach to AI. As we deploy AI systems, we must ensure transparency, accountability, and fairness. We must guard against biases, protect privacy and data security, and uphold human rights. AI should be a force for good, promoting inclusivity and leaving no one behind,” Danbatta said.
He further identified collaboration and partnerships as crucial in unlocking the potential of AI in Africa, saying, “we must foster collaboration among governments, regulatory bodies, academia, the private sector, and civil society.”
“By working together, we can share knowledge, pool resources together, and leverage expertise to drive innovation and create an enabling environment for AI adoption,” he said.
He described the theme for this year’s event, “Artificial Intelligence and Africa,” as both timely and significant, saying, “it attests to our commitment to harnessing the power of technology to drive economic growth, social development, and innovation across the African continent.”
According to Prof Danbatta, “AI has emerged as one of the most transformative technologies of our time. Its potential to revolutionize industries, enhance productivity, and improve the quality of life for citizens cannot be overstated.”
He believed that AI would play a pivotal role in shaping Africa’s digital future, adding, “there are several examples of AI-powered software in use in our daily lives, including voice assistants, face recognition for unlocking mobile phones, fingerprint biometrics, and machine learning-based financial fraud detection.”
He noted that in Nigeria, as of July 2023, the broadband penetration stood at 47.01% and that the continent must commit to ensuring reliable power supply and fostering a conducive regulatory environment.
“Without robust infrastructure, the potential of AI will remain untapped, and the digital divide will further widen,” he said.
Danbatta assured that the NCC was fully committed to supporting the development and deployment of AI technologies in Nigeria and across the continent, adding that the Commission was working to create an enabling regulatory framework that promotes innovation while safeguarding the interests of consumers and citizens.
“We are also collaborating with stakeholders to establish AI research and development centres, incubation hubs, and startup ecosystems to nurture homegrown AI talent,” he said.
Insisting that AI holds the power to transform our societies, drive economic growth, and improve the well-being of our people, Danbatta implored the participants to “seize this opportunity and work together to build an inclusive, sustainable, and AI-powered Africa.”