• Wednesday, May 29, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Nigeria sets sights on global AI role with new policy

robot with ai

Nigeria wants to become a major player in shaping the global narrative of artificial intelligence (AI) adoption.

To achieve this, the country is hosting a National Artificial Intelligence Strategy (NAIS) Workshop, which started on Monday.

The country plans to come up with a policy to set the tone for AI adoption and seeks to become a hub for pioneering intelligence solutions in Africa. Bosun Tijani, minister of communications, innovation, and digital economy, disclosed this at the NAIS Workshop in Abuja on Monday.

Tijani stressed the need for the country to play a prominent role in AI development, with Asia, America, and Europe already shaping the field.

He said: “The US, UK, and Asia all have input on how AI is developed and regulated. Right now, there are lots of silos regarding the ways and manners AI is developed and applied. In a short while, there will be a convergence of AI systems; so Nigeria should be part of that global superpower in the development and regulations of AI.

“AI is going to change the narratives in all areas of human endeavours, and we are here to develop a strategic roadmap that would enhance our knowledge, skills, participation, development, deployment, etc.”

The workshop, themed ‘Developing the high-level strategy and implementation plan for a national AI strategy for Nigeria,’ aims to produce an AI strategy that will govern AI adoption in the country. About 120 local and international organisations and professional groups, including academia, are participating in the workshop.

In his remarks, Kashifu Inuwa, director general of the National Information Technology Development Agency, said the country would benefit from the global AI market, which is estimated to add $2.7-$4.6 trillion to the global gross domestic product by 2030.

In the lead-up to the NAIS Workshop, Tijani highlighted how the workshop’s success will be measured: “Expected outcomes from the NAIS Workshop include establishing strategic priorities, implementation approaches, governance models, funding needs and other building blocks for Nigeria’s national AI strategy.”

He said the engagement also hopes to build a pipeline of public and private sector technical talent in AI. Amid questions about whether Nigeria should be engaged in AI conversations, the minister argued in an online post spotlighting the workshop that with the growing usage and adoption of AI globally, Nigeria needs to develop capacity to accelerate the application of AI in its key economic sectors.

“The National Artificial Intelligence Strategy Workshop is a critical first step to co-create a transformational AI policy and develop solutions geared at accelerating socio-economic growth,” he said.

In August 2023, Tijani declared the country’s need to develop a national strategy to harness AI’s power for sustainable development. He said the ministry would create a national AI strategy to help the country responsibly steer its Al revolution towards achieving national goals around job creation, social inclusion, and sustainable development.

He then announced that the ministry hoped to engage and include top AI researchers of Nigerian descent globally to craft a national AI strategy. When Nigeria’s draft policy on AI becomes available, it will join the ranks of nine other African countries — Benin, Egypt, Ghana, Mauritius, Rwanda, Senegal, Morocco, Sierra Leone, and Tunisia — that have drafted national AI strategies.

According to a report on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Technology Review, AI is expected to add $136 billion to the economies of Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa by 2030.

Earlier in 2024, the African Union Development Agency published a policy draft with a blueprint of AI regulations for African nations. This draft, which includes recommendations for industry-specific codes and practices, standards and certification bodies to assess and benchmark AI systems, and others, is not expected to be endorsed until February 2025.

The draft is expected to guide countries on the continent without existing AI policies or regulations and help countries with policies to review their policies.