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Building a network of excellence in artificial intelligence in Sub-Saharan Africa

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to alter our world and to advance human development, with dramatic implications across every sector of society. According to some estimates, AI could provide a 15.7 trillion-dollar boost to the world’s GDP by 2030 and is already bringing major advancements to the way we learn, conduct business, and monitor our health. For example, mobile AI health applications could deliver the kind of quality health care diagnosis usually reserved for the rich to remote locations at very low costs. It could also advance quality education with highly personalized teaching programs for all ages across the world.

At the same time, the indiscriminate dissemination of AI applications could also exacerbate inequalities. As AI applications spread rapidly across sectors and around the globe, more research is required to better understand how AI applications impact human development. To enhance the economic and social prospects of people in the global South, it is critical to support knowledge, skills development, and the institutions to responsibly implement and govern these technologies. To this end, IDRC is investing and co-designing a range of AI for development initiatives, focusing on innovations, foundations and governance. These initiatives will support relevant research, develop AI applications that are inclusive, ethical, and rights-based, and strengthen and create appropriate capacity building programs.

The main purpose of the AI for Development (AI4D) Africa project is to support the development of a network of excellence in AI in sub-Saharan Africa to strengthen and develop community scientific and technological excellence in a range of AI-related issue areas. AI4D Africa is aiming to undertake four interrelated activities, including: 1) Develop a network of institutions and individuals working on and researching AI from across sub-Saharan Africa, via workshops and consultations; 2) Deliver an AI research agenda with a focus on ethical, legal, and social aspects of AI research; 3) Generate an AI capacity building agenda via a survey of universities; and 4) Issue a call for at least ten multidisciplinary innovation projects within and outside the network, exploring local frontiers of research in AI.

AI4D Africa will run for 18 months and result in the establishment of the network, a research “roadmap”, a portfolio of innovation projects, and recommendations for capacity building for ethical and locally relevant AI research around the African continent.

Project ID
Project Status
End Date
18 months
IDRC Officer
Matthew Smith
Total Funding
CA$ 530,000.00
Ivory Coast
South of Sahara
Education and Science
Education and Science
Foundations for Innovation
Networked Economies
Institution Country
United Kingdom
Project Leader
Davor Orlic
Knowledge 4 All Foundation Limited
Institution Country
Burkina Faso
Project Leader
Teg-wende Idriss Tinto
Initiative pour un Burkina Ouvert