African governments have always taken up an export-led, low intensive manufacturing strategy as a core of their economic transformation.
Decades have passed and Africa has made little progress with that strategy.
The point here is that she has been hobbled by the law of diminishing returns which determine that countries in Africa that specialize in supplying raw materials, agricultural products, or low-end services yield a progressively smaller return for every unit of capital or labour added compared to the provision of manufactured goods.
Yet, the Asian tigers transformed their destinies by an export-led, low intensive manufacturing model.
The future doesn’t wait but arrives on us whether we are ready or not. The future has arrived in Africa as it has squandered several opportunities to turn the tides on its challenges.
Now, a constellation of technologies, AI offers Africa pad into a great future or chaos.
While Africa stuttered, an aging West and China have resorted to finding solutions to their local challenges.
Their responses have been increased spending on R&D, aggressive investment in next-generation technologies. One of them is automation.
They are automating their processes and augmenting their manufacturing capacity.
Such investments have unfurled digital platform companies that are squeezing massive profits from data.
It isn’t strange to argue that these platform companies might even make it more difficult for African countries to move from dependence on low retail productivity, aid, crude oil, or all.
Except they agree to share their data and Africa develops its home-grown AI Strategy to alter her destiny.
These digital platform firms remain strategic because of their access to data and powerful algorithmic capabilities.
This is because digital data sits at the core of corporate competition, leading to economic moat and national rivalry.
African will have to show the right leadership to engage in its critical need for data in designing new developmental frameworks.
As AI infuses into all sectors of human activity; not contending in the AI arena will significantly hurt Africa’s plans of economic diversification.
There is a need for a sense of urgency to take on a new landscape that it’s entirely different from previous decades.
Can Africa address the need for long-term investments in AI research?
With a few legacy systems, we can develop effective methods for collaboration between us and leading AI nations.
Also, partnerships with global leading AI enterprises will help us to understand and address the ethical, legal and societal implications of AI.
It will ensure the safety and security of AI systems. This is could be realized by a constructive engagement on common public data pool.
The thinking around ‘data as a public good’ should be codified. This means we need to work with the platform companies to make data a ‘public good’.
New development plans that don’t take in a data strategy which is the fuel of AI would fail.
Let’s understand AI
Artificial intelligence is a group of disruptive technologies that automate activities associated with human thinking, including decision-making, problem-solving, and learning.
It is manifest with extraordinary promises and perils. While the U.S. leads the world in cutting-edge AI R&D, we are seeing an upsurge in investment by China.
Its current five-year (2016-2020) planning congealed AI’s position as a darling child.
This shows the paramount importance in Chinese policy formulation and implementation has issued several policy directives featuring AI-related technologies.
This is the kind of attitude that Africans should embrace. The fourth industrial revolution (includes AI) offers Africa opportunities to accelerate economic transformation into higher rates of productivity and growth.
This is a future experts agreed that some goods will be produced and consumed in regional rather than global markets, possibly in a more distributed manner, presenting Africa with opportunities for industrialization as well as regional trade.
It could help accelerate the lofty goals of ACFTA. Yet, we need regulations to meet with innovation is a progressive manner.
African bureaucracy should be equipped to drive up an AI-Capable continent.
What can Africa do in the face of a disrupted future?
We need upgrading of our development plans. Upgrading would mean retooling our workforce for the new age.
Upgrading would entail incorporating AI and other exponential technologies into our developmental plans.
Our success here will be enhanced by the urgency and the right mindset we bring into the goal of supporting a new industrial paradigm and technology upgrade in line with our local problems.
Inevitably, an AI-powered Industrial restructure will help solve local problems and extend our capacity to build for the world.
This may get hard considering our stuttered effort at industrial development; we may need a different kind of leadership that understands the urgency of this new decade and consequences of backward continent.
These will need a deliberate effort to encourage the build out and acquisition of AI-powered industrial machines.
We need to put the right incentives in places, such as export orientation, support to embryonic manufacturing, and policies to move labour and capital into more productive enterprises.
Our startup-corporate nexus need to be optimized to drive innovation. African governments would need to prioritize her bidding process to take in startups with demonstrable capacity to solve local problems.
A curriculum overhaul
We need a curriculum overhaul. African governments must recognize curriculum development and workforce training as an urgent R&D need.
China developed a Catalog of Student Majors in Vocational and Technical Education for Regular Institutes of Higher- Education, which serves as
a basic guideline for institutes to offer vocational degree programs, to designate majors including:
- Industrial Robots Technologies,
- Industrial Internet of Things Applications Technologies
- Industrial Internet of Things Engineering Technologies
- Smart Product Development
- Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Applications Technologies
This must form the plank of our response to a changing world.
Suggestively, Partnerships with edutech platforms can help formalized the choices for African educational institutes to start programs and enroll students in these majors, and streamlined the management of such programs.
That is why the African government should spearhead the collaboration with the private sector in workforce training.
A deliberate Implementation Plan in Vocational Education In Industrial Robotics is possible with robotics companies partnerships.
There is an urgent need to codify how we integrate our students who had studied abroad on government grants into our workforce.
This has to be systemic to reduce waste and control brain drain.
Finally, African government should offer grants and all kinds of privileges (housing subsidies, tax reduction, healthcare, jobs for spouses, school enrollment for children) to attract top overseas talents to settle down in their countries.
This can only be possible if we build both the soft and hard infrastructure of development. This could ride on a well-developed national
If we have to capitalize on the opportunities presented by the fourth industrial revolution, it will require a concerted effort from African governments to lead the charge.
Also, we have to improve our governing structure in the special economic zones and integrate our national and regional industrial policies for the future and the present to work for us.
About the Author
Caesar Keluro is the Founder of ‘Make In West Africa’, a Thinktank.
Featured Image: becominghuman.ai
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