Nigerian Government Calls on Experts to Create Actionable AI Strategy for Inclusive Development

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Engr. Faruk Yusuf Yabo, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy

The Federal Government, through the Ministry of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy, has tasked top Nigerian research, development and innovation experts to develop an actionable Artificial Intelligence (AI) strategy to propel the country to global leadership. The proposed strategy is intended to fulfil the Government’s eight priorities, stimulate economic growth, and secure Nigeria’s global leadership in the future.

Dr. Bosun Tijani, the Honourable Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy, addressed participants at the opening ceremony of the National Artificial Intelligence Strategy Co-Creation Workshop, which runs from April 15th to April 18th, 2024, in Abuja

The minister highlighted the profound impact of AI technology, noting its extensive scope and transformative potential across all aspects of national life. He emphasized that AI provides a chance to revolutionize various domains, including communication, entrepreneurship, agriculture, public health, and education, thereby fostering national prosperity and aligning Nigeria with advancements seen in other developed economies.

Dr. Bosun urged participants to recognize their generational duty to not only utilize AI technology but also actively shape its evolution. He encouraged them to contribute significantly to AI development in Nigeria, with the goal of influencing the future trajectory of the technology.

“Our position is to ensure that our voices are represented in the development of this technology in a global group.

“I want to remind us that we are not far behind, the USA has its own perspectives on how the AI is to be developed and regulated; the Europeans have their approach on how the AI is to be developed and regulated and the Asians too have many approaches on how it should be developed and regulated”, the minister stressed.

The minister stated that there is nowhere in the world that AI is going to be based on divergence because till now, countries are still grounded consequent upon working in silos. He however noted that in the next 24 to 25 years, there will be a convergence but said “do we need to wait until that convergence?” he asked.

In his opening remarks, the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Engr. Faruk Yusuf Yabo, highlighted the transformative power of AI for Nigeria’s future, stating, “We are building the groundwork for a future where AI is essential to every aspect of Nigerian life.”

Urging participants to focus on practicality while developing an actionable strategy, he reminded them to be mindful of the country’s cultural values, traditional norms, and specific national security and sovereignty requirements as they work on this important task. Engr. Yabo noted that the workshop aims to shape the future of AI in Nigeria, guiding the country and the continent toward their rightful place among the world’s technologically advanced nations.

Also, addressing the group of experts, the minister said “I am challenging everyone not to be focused only on AI Strategy that is limited to Nigeria nor the continent of Africa, but our focus will be on what a good AI will be for the global space”. It was on this note that he called on the participants to show leadership globally that the world should be convergent with AI and not divergent.

In another development, Dr. Bosun reminded the Nigerian experts that for any technology that has the potential to influence what they think, how they think and what they do, there must be a technology that will raise the level of productivity significantly for society. So, their goal as a nation, is to adopt a technology that will connect humanity to varied opportunities. He further challenged them to think locally, and at the same time think globally for the progress of Nigeria as a country and Africa in general.

“Build a new way of AI that is for the entire world”, he added. He appreciated all the agencies under the ministry, the AI Buds participants, Luminate, Google, Meta, Microsoft, UNESCO and UNDP as co-sponsors of the four-day Workshop.

NITDA’s Director General, Kashifu Inuwa, in his remarks, emphasized the ubiquity of AI as a technology that can be applied across various sectors. Citing the World Economic Forum, he said AI has the potential to add $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030 and Generative AI’s capacity to contribute $4.4 trillion annually according to McKinsey. He expressed confidence that Nigeria could leverage AI to achieve economic diversification, enhance national security, and boost productivity by crafting a comprehensive national AI strategy.