Algeria, April 16, 2018

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Africa can lead the world in new technologies

Due to the advent of artificial intelligence (AI), there is great fear about the loss of work for many, but some of this is misplaced. AI will no doubt destroy some jobs but it will create jobs too.

Africa will soon have the world’s second-largest continental population. As the Pan-African economy develops, so does an opportunity that most developed economies lack: the collective choice to embrace emerging technologies and generate the infrastructure required to support a robust and well-equipped future workforce.

The difference between developing and developed economies is that countries 'ahead of the technological curve' often resist systemic change due to their size and the potential of destabilisation or disruption. Because developing economies are in their formative period, decisions can be made by governments and industry about how they should progress and stabilise. They stand to develop their economies by disrupting the status quo elsewhere through innovation.

Systemic changes in new technologies, like those relevant to education, can make an entire generation and potentially cultivate leaders on a global scale.

Africa has an opportunity to lead the world in emerging technologies by taking steps to incorporate a culture of working with robotics and AI in education. Companies should improve the way they screen, hire, attract and retain applicants.

Some, such as LinkedIn, have tried to tackle this problem but in many ways have only complicated it. Without proper vetting, and because the format is rigid, very little specific information is conveyed by LinkedIn users about their suitability for a specific company.

Individuals perform better and stay at companies longer when they feel they are a key part of a well-oiled machine. This is one prime example of how AI is beginning to disrupt the human resources space, particularly in Africa

This is especially true for executive hiring. Metrics such as university attended, work history and incomplete skills lists are of little use at senior level. Instead, the focus must be on more intangible factors such as deal history analysis, level of responsibility in previous roles, management style, key accomplishments, personality, cultural fit, psychometric testing and long-term career interests. When specific criteria across these categories are met to a high degree and when they are perfectly in line with a company’s values and criteria, both parties will achieve success.

Using AI, companies can generate intricate profiles of individuals and companies, utilising a blinded, relatively non-biased approach that matches individuals to their perfect role and employers to their ideal employee. Strategies such as this optimise not only for performance but also for the best possible cultural fit.

Individuals perform better and stay at companies longer when they feel they are a key part of a well-oiled machine. This is one prime example of how AI is beginning to disrupt the human resources space, particularly in Africa.

While many developing economies have made strides in incorporating technology into their daily lives, emerging and frontier markets possess the unique potential to advance further than their western peers.

Africans have the unique ability to innovate as they are not restricted by barometers about how things 'should be done'.

Africans must choose to embrace technology and all of its known and unknown opportunities — social and economic.

The fourth industrial revolution is just around the corner. Africans have a responsibility to understand how these technologies will affect their lives and work and to train future generations to use them responsibly and lucratively.

Africa has an opportunity to lead the world in AI and to outpace the West economically by embracing such technologies. To effectively shape this, it is vital that appropriate investments are made in Africa to allow future generations to benefit from the immense opportunities that are promised by these technologies.

Perhaps the most important investment is one that will bring the internet to every citizen on the continent, empowering people to participate in the global economy, which is made possible through such a distributed system. Fibre internet is slowly becoming available throughout the developing world, but the acceleration of this will boost economic growth.

Investment in promising AI start-ups on the continent will foster competition and lead to ingenuity. It is vital and probably very profitable for companies with the available resources to invest in promising tech start-ups on the continent, to allow them to compete with those in the West.

With an understanding of and an appreciation for AI and strong investment in the African region, Africans can ensure that their future is more evenly distributed and that all stand to gain economically and socially from these technologies.

Add to this the right education and development of skills, and African youth can be the pioneers of the digital revolution.

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