Digital transformation is re-imagining industries around the world. Technology is no longer a nice-to-have, but a necessity for staying in business. Research shows that modern technologies like AI will contribute up to $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030, making it the biggest commercial opportunity in today’s fast-changing economy (PwC). AI is also expected to create 2.3 million jobs by 2020 (Gartner). “The appetite for these technologies exists in Africa,” says Ryno Rijnsburger, Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft 4Afrika. “More and more companies – including several of the local partners we work with – are starting to experiment with and enact their strategies towards this. As AI opens new business and employment opportunities, now is a crucial time to equip Africa’s young people with the skills that will enable access to higher paying jobs, in faster growing fields.”
Microsoft, through its 4Afrika Initiative, is throwing its global weight behind developing data and AI capabilities in Africa, through a deep and prolonged investment into skills and the youth, via initiatives like internships, training, events, challenges, and strategic partnering. “With the pace of change driven by AI, there is an increasing need for life-long learning, on-the-job training, apprenticeships and other programmes that deliver training in a more nimble manner,” adds Rijnsburger.
Earlier in the month, Microsoft participated in Data Science Nigeria’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) bootcamp, to build the capacity of local developers in using AI to drive financial inclusion. This week, the tech giant also provided sponsorship and mentorship at the International Python Conference (PyCon), which took place in Kenya (October 25 to 26) and the Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH) Innovation Day (October 24 to 25).
In partnership with the Botswana Innovation Hub, Microsoft 4Afrika launched its 17th AppFactory (Apprenticeship Factory) in Africa. Three of these AppFactories are currently running in Nigeria and Ghana, in collaboration with local partners Mobile Web Ghana, Lotus Beta Analytics and Sidmach Technologies, which recently graduated its first set of apprentices. At these factories, young ICT graduates are developing skills in secure coding, machine learning, bot framework and data analytics – empowering them to innovate in the fields of healthcare, finance, education, transportation and more.
At PyCon, Microsoft provided training around data and AI, machine learning and Microsoft Cloud technologies. PyCon Kenya is the Kenyan chapter of the International Python Conference that brings together businesses, ‘techies’, startups and students with an interest in the python programming language – a key language for the data and AI frontiers.
“We are working to empower individuals, across all demographics, with the high-demand skills they need to succeed in an AI-enabled world, create breakthrough innovations and accelerate Africa’s digital transformation,” says Rijnsburger. “AI is not about replacing humans, but rather amplifying human ingenuity with intelligent technology. We believe it has the power to extend our capabilities so that we can achieve more. When made accessible to everyone, AI will transform industries, make us more productive, and help solve some of society’s biggest challenges. We’re committed to ensuring Africa plays its part in this smart revolution.”