Meet the AI4D Africa partners leading talent development
This article is part of a series describing the three pillars of activities undertaken by the Artificial Intelligence for Development in Africa (AI4D Africa) initiative since its launch in December 2020.
The AI4D initiative is built on three pillars of activities:
- Policy research to promote and support responsible Artificial Intelligence (AI)
- Supporting responsible innovation to address Africa’s development challenges
- Amplifying African talent to develop and deploy responsible AI
Building the talent pillar
Since its launch in 2020, the AI4D initiative released calls for proposals and expressions of interest to recruit African partners to lead projects with the goal of enhancing African talent to develop and deploy responsible AI. The result: three multi-dimensional AI4D labs at African public universities and the African AI4D Scholarships.
AI4D labs at public universities
The multidisciplinary AI4D laboratories are designed to help public universities research and implement responsible AI solutions that help tackle development challenges. This is a long-term sustainable approach to developing and nurturing local talent that responds to the knowledge requirements of the public and private sectors and helps drive innovation for public good.
The AI for Development research lab in Anglophone Africa is a collaboration between the University of Dodoma and the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology in Tanzania. The lab strengthens research and teaching capacity in responsible AI across Anglophone Africa through mentorship, community building and equitable distribution of high-quality teaching and training materials. It increases understanding of how to advance responsible, multidisciplinary and gender-inclusive research methodologies and training capacity. It also explores how to support AI deployment and commercialization from academia to the private sector.
“The AI4D Africa’s Anglophone Research Lab strives to enhance research, teaching and innovation capacity in the region by bringing on board talented scholars and innovators and cultivating expertise to leverage AI4D advances and strengthen the regional AI ecosystem. To realize its capacity building mission, the lab provides tailor-made AI training and programs that envisage increasing AI awareness, supporting innovation and equitable distribution of high-quality AI teaching and training materials.”
Ally S. Nyamawe, lecturer at University of Dodoma and principal investigator of Tanzanian AI for development research
The Interdisciplinary Centre of Excellence in Artificial Intelligence for Development (CITADEL) fills an important gap in AI academic literature and resources available to scholars in Francophone Africa. CITADEL welcomes researchers from Burkina Faso and the sub-region seeking a conducive environment to conduct high-quality and globally competitive research that is interdisciplinary and relevant to the African context. CITADEL also trains new talent in versatile skills to meet the needs of local industry and to deliver high-quality research.
“At CITADEL, a small team of AI researchers and practitioners have set up a base to grow a large community of talents, providing them with new knowledge, missing tools and multidisciplinary partners for exploring the capacity of AI to effectively address development issues responsibly in Francophone Africa.”
Tegawendé F. Bissyandé, Professor at the University of Luxembourg and Director at CITADEL
The Responsible AI Lab (RAIL) in Ghana, housed at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and co-funded by the German Agency for International Cooperation, engages in AI research and innovation that responds to capacity requirements of the public and private sector. More specifically, the lab deepens understanding of how to develop and apply responsible AI tools for advancing computer, biomedical, agricultural and ecological sciences; strengthens national and international collaboration of public universities with the private sector; and strengthens capacities in the responsible use of AI to support the most vulnerable communities in Ghana, Senegal and the sub-region.
“The Responsible Artificial Intelligence Lab (RAIL) has a mandate to build capacity in the responsible and inclusive use of AI to respond to the demands of the fourth industrial revolution. There is a critical skills gap of expert knowledge in AI in the African sub-region, and the lab seeks to build capacity through degree programs, short courses and impactful research to bridge this gap. RAIL also seeks to generate datasets through its field research to contribute to the pressing need for Afro-centric datasets in the AI ecosystem.”
Jerry Kponyo, associate professor at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and lead investigator at RAIL Lab
The AI4D Africa Scholarships
Run by the African Centre for Technology Studies in Kenya, the AI4D Africa Scholarship program aims to strengthen the next generation of AI leaders, academics, and innovators in Africa who are focused on advancing responsible AI innovation for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
This project supports the administration and execution of two scholarships: a PhD scholarship program and an emerging scholars’ program. It aims to strengthen the capacity of public universities in Africa to support leading multidisciplinary research in responsible AI, with a particular focus on institutions in low- and lower-middle-income countries. Specific strategies are used to expand the diversity of perspectives in the field of responsible AI in Africa, increasing the representation of women and linguistic minorities in cutting-edge technology development. Four early career academics and 27 PhD students were supported.
“This is a unique program that not only provides scholarships to registered PhD students and early career academics in artificial intelligence and machine learning, but also supports all-round professional development of the beneficiaries and builds a continental network of AI scholars consisting of PhD students, early career academics and their supervisors.”
Professor Tom Peter Migun Ogada, AI4D Africa Scholarship project lead