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Ranking African Government Artificial Intelligence Readiness

By Guest Writer on May 22, 2024

Artificial Intelligence ranking african countries

Oxford Insights Government AI Readiness Index aims to provide valuable insights for effective and responsible artificial intelligence integration into public services. It includes 39 indicators across 10 dimensions, which make up 3 pillars: Government, Technology Sector, and Data & Infrastructure. This year, it ranks 193 countries, up from 181 in last year’s iteration.

Ranking African Government AI Readiness

ai ranking african governments

Despite Sub-Saharan Africa having the lowest average score of any world region in the index, signifying serious challenges to government artificial intelligence adoption in the region, there has been real growth over the past 12 months, with 3 countries publishing new national AI strategies and one announcing a forthcoming strategy. In addition, 3 countries have announced they are working with UNESCO to adopt and implement strategies in line with UNESCO’s Recommendation on the Ethics of AI.

Mauritius leads the region with a score of 53.27, followed by South Africa, Rwanda, Senegal, and Benin in the top five.

Mauritius’s strength lies mostly in the Government pillar — its score of 69.82 in this pillar is 10 points higher than its score in any other pillar — while South Africa leads the region in both the Data & Infrastructure pillar and the Technology Sector pillar. In fact, South Africa is the only country in Sub-Saharan Africa to score above the global average for the Technology Sector pillar.

National Government AI Strategies

Despite these barriers, the past year has seen significant and interesting developments in government AI readiness in the region. In particular, Senegal, Benin, and Rwanda’s new national AI strategies represent the first AI strategies in mainland Sub-Saharan Africa and end Mauritius’s 5-year term as the only country in the region with an AI strategy.

It is also worth noting that these countries are all considered low income (Rwanda) or lower middle income (Senegal and Benin) by the World Bank, unlike upper middle income Mauritius. This goes against the trend seen in some other world regions, in which the most developed or largest economies are the first to create national AI strategies.

By this logic, countries like South Africa or Nigeria would create national AI strategies first, yet neither has done so (though Nigeria’s strategy is reportedly in development).

It is also worth noting that Rwanda and Senegal both created their AI strategies with support from cooperation agencies and international organisations — GIZ FAIR Forward, the World Economic Forum, and The Future Society in Rwanda’s case; and the African Union and Team Europe via the AU-EU Digital for Development (D4D) Hub in Senegal’s case.

Furthermore, regional collaboration seems to be a growing trend in the region, with Namibia hosting ministers from Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe at the first UNESCO-Southern Africa sub-Regional Forum on Artificial Intelligence (SARFAI).

This forum produced the Windhoek Statement, which recommended actions on AI governance, capacity-building, infrastructure, R&D, environmental protection, gender inclusion, and collaboration across the region.

International collaboration is also visible in Côte D’Ivoire, Namibia, and Rwanda, which have (separately) committed to working with UNESCO on implementing the Recommendation on the Ethics of AI. Meanwhile, GIZ FAIR-Forward and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data collaborated with Kenyan stakeholders to co-create an AI Practitioners’ Guide specific to Kenya’s legal and regulatory environment.

While most countries in the region lack AI strategies, there has been continued progress in data protection policies and government digital transformation, which are essential foundations for government AI readiness. Nigeria enacted a new Data Protection Act in 2023, replacing its 2019 Data Protection Regulation with more comprehensive legislation, and Senegal published its National Data Strategy, developed with the nonprofit Smart Africa and German development agency GIZ.

International cooperation in digital transformation is likely to continue, as the US announced a Digital Transformation with Africa initiative, the UK launched an AI for Development programme focused on Sub-Saharan Africa, and GIZ operates eleven Digital Transformation Centres in the region and has possible plans to expand.

Forthcoming National AI Strategies

It appears the increase in national AI strategies in Sub-Saharan Africa will continue next year, with Ethiopia and Nigeria announcing work on draft AI strategies. Perhaps the most anticipated future development is the publication and approval of the African Union’s AI Continental Strategy for Africa, expected to be launched at the January 2024 AU Summit.

As Rwanda and Senegal’s new strategies illustrate, international organisations can be influential in supporting African nations to craft their own national AI strategies. A continental strategy from the African Union could provide valuable guidance and a blueprint for other countries to follow while saving them precious time and resources in drafting and implementing an AI strategy.

A lightly edited synopsis of the Oxford Insights Government AI Readiness Index

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