AI comes under intense discussion Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Minister Monica Mutsvangwa interacts with an exhibitor, Eunice Ncube, during her tour of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) exhibition stands at the ongoing 56th Session of the Economic Commission for Africa Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development in Victoria Falls yesterday.


DELIBERATIONS at the ongoing 56th session of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, continued yesterday with delegates discussing about Artificial Intelligence (AI) in economic development, while ministers engaged World Bank regional vice president for Eastern and Southern Africa, Ms Victoria Kwakwa, in a closed-door session.

Today, President Mnangagwa is expected to officially open the conference.

Responding to questions during a media briefing yesterday on the sidelines of the conference, Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube confirmed the President’s attendance.

“In our programme, we have scheduled for His Excellency (President Mnangagwa),” he said.

“I heard that he has agreed to grace the conference to officially open it tomorrow (today) the 4th of March.

“We are looking forward to the speech and I think that delegates will be so pleased that he will be in our midst and express his views as the leader of the country and as an important leader in Africa and as someone who is very passionate about food security, which is a critical issue in greening Africa’s economies.”

In respect of yesterday’s programme at the conference, Prof Ncube said it was a “very productive day”.

The morning session focused on how Africa can use Artificial Intelligence to grow economies and panellists said there was scope for the continent to benefit from the technology.

Others had concerns that the continent still doesn’t have the requisite infrastructure and laws to regulate Artificial Intelligence, which might cause problems going forward.

A discussant from South Africa, Ms Baratang Miya said while AI was critical for every business and country, some key infrastructure such as reliable electricity supply was not there.

She said in her country, they at times go for 8 hours without electricity, which will affect the use of AI.

Prof Ncube said delegates agreed that data should be available and accurate so that whoever is accessing AI platforms is able to get accurate information and accurate advice.

“So, data is critical for AI platforms. What is also critical is to make sure that we invest in ICT infrastructure as African countries, which will enable us to access the information from AI platforms.

“For most African countries we haven’t done too badly because mobile telephony penetration is reasonably high. Some countries have done better than others and most Africans have a phone and even smart phones are beginning to appear quite broadly across the length and breadth of our societies, so we should be able to deliver material from AI platforms.

“The other thing that is required is a proper regulatory environment; this starts from legal infrastructure around data protection and privacy protection, but also just regulating AI and those who may abuse it to infringe on the freedoms of others,” said Prof Ncube.

He said from the discussion, AI will result in economic development, leads to increased productivity and gains in efficiency.

“What also came out is that there are more benefits than fears from AI. Fears will be managed through the regulatory environment that exists.

“Concerns were also raised about data storage but these fears were allayed in that over 90 percent of data from Europe is stored in America, for instance,” he said. 

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