• Sunday, May 26, 2024
businessday logo


The Human-AI alliance: Why Nigeria is primed to lead the symphony


By Sylvester Juwe

Imagine a world where every interaction feels personal. In today’s business landscape, companies that prioritise “customer centricity” understand this concept. They go beyond a one-size-fits-all approach, catering to individual needs and preferences. This isn’t limited to businesses; exceptional teachers, for instance, individualise learning experiences, fostering a passion for knowledge in each student.

Technology giants leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to analyse vast amounts of customer data. While these personalised offers and recommendations can create pitfalls. Here’s where the human touch becomes crucial. AI can gather information, but it lacks the nuanced understanding humans possess. A human customer service representative could have identified the incongruity, avoiding an awkward experience.

“The key is not to see machines as rivals, but as partners in progress.” – Kofi Annan

AI isn’t here to steal jobs; it’s creating new ones. However, the skill set required is changing. The McKinsey report estimates that, while automation will displace 800 million jobs globally by 2030, it will also create 950 million new ones. These new jobs will require a different skill set, with a growing demand for human-AI collaboration skills. Nigeria, with its young, vibrant population, is perfectly positioned to capitalise on this.

Read also: Artificial Intelligence – Will it be a blessing or a curse?

Nigeria boasts a unique human capital advantage. Our young population is the largest in Africa and the second-youngest globally. This translates to a vast pool of potential talent and a digitally native generation eager to learn and adapt.

A 2021 report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) highlights Nigeria’s strengths in problem-solving and science. Nigerian students performed above average on the problem-solving skills test in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). This indicates a budding talent pool for technological innovation.

Further, Nigerian society scores highly on collectivism, emphasising cooperation and social bonds. This cultural emphasis on community aligns perfectly with the collaborative nature of the human-AI alliance.

Now imagine a team of AI engineers working alongside social scientists to develop AI solutions for farmers. The engineers bring their technical expertise in machine learning, while the social scientists understand the specific needs and challenges faced by Nigerian farmers. This collaborative approach, fuelled by Nigeria’s cultural emphasis on collectivism, fosters innovation and ensures solutions are relevant to the human element of the problem.

Moreover, Nigerian creativity is a crucial human strength that cannot be replicated by AI. In the human-AI alliance, Nigerian creativity can be combined with AI’s analytical power to solve complex problems and develop innovative solutions. This synergy between human ingenuity and artificial intelligence positions Nigeria as a potential leader in the coming AI era.

Education is the cornerstone of unlocking Nigeria’s human capital potential. Nigeria has made significant progress in recent years, reducing the proportion of out-of-school children and increasing the enrolment rate of girls in school. However, challenges remain. Limited resources and large class sizes often hinder the quality of education. Here’s where the human-AI alliance can again play a transformative role.

Imagine secondary schools leveraging AI platforms to analyse a student’s strengths, weaknesses, and learning style based on performance and interaction data. The platform can then recommend personalised learning modules, practice exercises, and online resources, including the provision of real-time support. Thus, freeing up teachers from repetitive tasks like grading allows them to focus on what humans do best: providing individual guidance, mentorship, building trust and relationships, and fostering a love of learning. The human touch remains irreplaceable, and AI acts as a powerful tool to augment, not replace, the role of the teacher.

Equipping the workforce, especially those within the educational space, with the skills needed to work alongside AI, therefore, becomes a priority. This requires a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) education at all levels. This will prepare the next generation of Nigerians to thrive in the AI-powered knowledge economy. Elsewhere, expanding internet access and digital literacy programmes is essential to ensuring everyone can participate in the AI revolution and benefit from educational opportunities.

By embracing the human-AI alliance and investing in its youth, Nigeria can unlock its full potential. Its vast human capital, cultural strengths, and growing technological prowess create a potent mix for success. In the symphony of human progress, Nigeria has the potential to be the lead violinist, not just for itself but for Africa as a whole.

Sylvester Juwe, MEd (CANTAB), MBA, PhD – Founder EDATECH