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ITU’s AI for Good platform to showcase how AI is advancing SDGs at AI Expo Africa 2020

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ITU Head of Strategic Engagement, Fred Werner (Image by: AI Expo Africa)

In 2015, in a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030, world leaders adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the landmark United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in New York.

With 10 years left to reach the SDGs, Fred Werner, Head of Strategic Engagement at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) believes it’s time to move the needle and use artificial intelligence (AI) to meet these goals by 2030.

Werner will give a keynote speech at AI Expo Africa – Africa’s largest business-focused AI, Data Science and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) trade event and conference – on how the AI for Good platform is identifying and generating practical AI applications which advance the SDGs and scale those solutions for global impact.

The ITU strongly believes AI can help solve humanity’s greatest challenges. Its AI for Good Global Summit — the leading action-oriented, global and inclusive United Nations platform on AI has since 2017, together with its community of innovators and problem solvers, identified, strategised and created new projects, roadmaps and initiatives around the use of AI to accelerate progress towards the SDGs.

In June the ITU as part of its AI for Good Webinar Series — and in partnership with AI Media Group and Alliance4ai — held a webinar that explored Africa’s varying AI strategies and how they are impacting on the continent’s economic growth. Panelists who included South Africa’s Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies Stella Tembisa Ndabeni-Abrahams, UNESCO-IBE director Mmantsetsa Marope and Machine Intelligence Institute of Africa director John Kamara provided regional success stories that explained the opportunities and challenges in deploying these strategies.

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“We have 10 years left to achieve the 17 SDGs and we need to act now to make this happen. AI solutions that we identify today need a few years to develop, a few more years to achieve scale and then a few years after that to achieve the desired impact. At a minimum, we are looking at a 10-year timeline, bringing us right up to 2030. We have to act now if we want a chance of moving the needle,” says Werner.

AI Expo Africa 2020 will be held online on 3 and 4 September with a speaker line up led by Kay Firth-Butterfield, Head of AI and Machine Learning at the World Economic Forum; Neil Sahota, IBM Master Inventor, UN AI expert and lecturer at University of California, and Bayo Adekanmbi, CTO MTN Nigeria and founder of Data Science Nigeria.

South Africa’s Minister of Communications, Telecommunications and Postal Services Stella Tembisa Ndabeni-Abrahams; Prof Tshilidzi Marwala, and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg and Deputy Head of the 4IR Commission of South Africa are also set to speak at the show.

Issued by AI Expo Africa

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The Launch of the Guinea-Bissau Accelerator Lab, a UNDP Initiative

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Accelerator Lab Guinea-Bissau Launch event: Panel debate about innovation

“We are pleased to open the launch of the Accelerator Lab, which is a UNDP initiative with the aims of improving the development sector in the country, working very closely with the community and its local inventors, thus creating local solutions for their needs.”

And so it began, the opening of the Accelerator Lab by the Bissau-Guinean band Tabanka Djaz, on December 9th, which took place at the Hotel CEIBA in Bissau with a limited number of participants due to COVID-19 restrictions. The event had a hybrid structure, physical and virtual, to reach the widest possible audience.  Tabanka Djaz, a very popular band, with a wide range of influence in the country and the diaspora, it was therefore imperative to have them open the event and attract their audience and increase the visibility of the Lab. The Lab’s initiative is supported by two main investors; the Federal Republic of Germany, through the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the State of Qatar, through the Qatar Development Fund.

Event opening and musical performance by the famous Guinean band Tabanka Djaz

The Accelerator Lab Event summary

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Suzy Carla Barbosa, gave a brief speech welcoming the Accelerator Lab and praising the UNDP initiative, followed by Tjark Egenhoff, UNDP Resident Representative in Guinea-Bissau, who delved into the global network’s background, stressed the urgent need to rethink development for the 21st century. The German Ambassador to Guinea-Bissau Stephan Röken sent a video message congratulating UNDP for being one of the most recent to join the global network of Accelerator Labs. The Ambassador also spoke about the strong cooperation between Germany and UNDP and the importance of the global community going beyond “business as usual”,  efforts, and supporting innovation in this sense, because based on current trends, we are still very far from achieving the goals of the SDG Agenda (Sustainable Development Goals).

After the opening, there was a brief presentation by the Accelerator Lab team, where the frontier challenge was discussed, which has been identified as “the lack of basic and quality services” in the case of the Lab in Guinea-Bissau, and its main focus. Take a look at the documentary video about Guinea-Bissau Accelerator Lab here

Speech by Suzy Carla Barbosa, Minister of Foreign Affairs, welcoming the initiative of the Accelerator Lab in Guinea-Bissau

The need for innovation in Guinea-Bissau

After the presentations, an innovation panel was moderated by the Resident Representative accompanied by Magda Robalo, High Commissioner for COVID-19 in Guinea-Bissau, José Carlos Varela Casimiro, Secretary of State for Budget and Nadine Perrault, UNICEF Representative. The panel introduced an interesting discussion around the need for innovation in Guinea-Bissau, asking the speakers “what are the ways that we can leverage innovation for development in the country?”.

Some responses included, new investment opportunities in innovation for development in the regions of Guinea-Bissau, as well as forging a connection with the government for more sustainable development. The panel’s questions were not limited to the speakers, the guests in the audience were also encouraged to contribute their ideas.

One of the participants, Ricardo Cá, winner of the African Salon of Invention and Technological Innovation award, spoke about his innovation, the cashew nut peeling machine, which works without electricity, only on pedals and with the ability to produce up to 15 kilograms of clean cashew nut per hour.

The second participant, Domingos da Silva, also known as “Kasacou”, spoke about his invention of the recycling area, which consists of recycling glass bottles and making them into building blocks. 

Ricardo Cá, local innovator and winner of the African Salon of Technological Invention and Innovation, intervened in the discussion about local innovation

Introducing the “Solutions Mapping” approach

During the event, a new approach from the Lab was also presented, focussing on the mapping of solutions, seeking innovative localized solutions to understand local needs. The people directly affected by the problem are the ones who create these basic innovations, it is not really a single solution, but the need that these solutions try to address,  Governments and NGOs do not always understand the complexities of local limitations. The event united this ecosystem, consisting of Ricardo Cá and Domingos da Silva ”Kasacou” among other innovators and grassroots organizations, and included them in the discussion, in order to highlight their solutions, but also their challenges faced on the ground. 

Brief presentation by the Guinea-Bissau Accelerator Lab team, explaining the goals, objectives and methodology of the Accelerator Lab network.

The next steps for the Accelerator Lab 

One of the main objectives of the Lab is to map existing solutions, through interactions with communities where the Accelerator Lab team will be able to raise a dialogue with grassroots innovators and other innovators who generally fall outside UNDP’s radar. The next steps for the Accelerator Lab include producing a six-week workplan, through which the team will develop strategies and ways to engage with the frontier challenge. The importance of narrowing the frontier challenge lies in the understanding that, although challenges can be resolved in collaboration with the community, many limitations already have solutions in place. These existing solutions need to be mapped and it’s  understood, to see what works and what does not work, in order to introduce new solutions. 

The launch of the Accelerator Lab was very important to introduce the initiative to Guinea-Bissau. It was also an opportunity to have face-to-face interactions, to build synergies with future partners and involve local innovators and grassroots initiatives for the future functioning of the Lab. The event was recorded and broadcasted live to those interested, in the diaspora, as well as to those in the country who were unable to attend due to the COVID-19 restrictions. The event has had over 600 streams on Zoom and Facebook, broadcast the full event here; and give us your opinion or collaborate with us through a message to info.acclabgw@undp.org. In addition, if you know any Guinean innovators in the country or in the diaspora, please enter their details using this form.  

Source: UNDP Guinea-Bissau

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Press Release

Thabo Mashegoane Appointed As Chairman of the Africa ICT Alliance (AfICTA)

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Thabo Mashegoane

The President and Board Chairperson of the Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa (IITPSA), Thabo Mashegoane, has been elected as Chairman of the Africa ICT Alliance (AfICTA).

Formerly the Vice-Chairman of AfICTA, he succeeds Engr. Hossam Elgamal from Egypt to become the third Chairman. AfICTA, a private sector-led alliance of ICT Associations, multinational corporations, companies, organisations and individuals in the ICT sector in Africa, aims to fulfil the promise of the digital age for everyone in Africa by encouraging dialogue and fostering ICT enabled development.

During an electronic election at the AfICTA Annual General Meeting on 25 November, Mashegoane was elected chair, while IITPSA Past President and Non-Executive Director Ulandi Exner was also elected AfICTA Vice-Chair for Southern Africa.

The election named the following board members and officers: Paul Rowney, Deputy Chair; Opeyemi Onifade, Treasurer; Dr. Waudo Siganga, Vice-Chair for East Africa; Engr. Assem Wahby, Vice-Chair, North Africa; Adetola Sogbesan, Vice-Chair, West Africa; and Eric Sindeu, Vice-Chair, Central Africa.  

Thanking his predecessors for their service and leadership in the Alliance to date, Mashegoane noted that AfICTA was an organisation with a vast network, impact on critical policies, and reputation that took years and hard work to build. “Mine is to take the baton and continue where the honourable Engr. Hossam Elgamal has taken this organisation to. Of importance is the platform to enable African countries to collaborate and share best practices and lessons learnt with an objective of not leaving anyone behind in development. This is a vision we will continue to uphold. We stand in a critical position to influence attainment of Sustainable Development Goals 2030 through ICT.”

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Speaking after the election, Mashegoane said digital inclusion and ICT-enabled development was also a key mission for the IITPSA in South Africa.  “The IITPSA shares the vision and ethos of AfICTA. IITPSA has also stated that we need to step up efforts to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which, among other things, seeks to bridge the digital divide and harness technology to address major global challenges such as poverty, climate change and conflict, we need to work harder. At IITPSA, we believe this means we have to collaborate across industries, across countries, to deploy the benefits of ICTs for the good of all,” he said.

Africa ICT Alliance

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AI Media Group launches The Deal Room – Africa’s first AI-focused, free investment matchmaking service

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The AI Media Group has launched The Deal Room, Africa’s first artificial intelligence (AI) focused, free investment matchmaking service which aims to connect African AI focused startups to interested investors and venture capitalists (VCs).

AI Media Group is the publisher of AI and Data Science quarterly magazine Synapse, the AI TV YouTube channel, as well as the curator and organiser of AI Expo Africa — Africa’s largest B2B / B2G trade-focused AI, Robotic Process Automation and Data Science conference — which has been a great success over the last three years.

The annual expo has seen AI Media Group amass a database of over 1000 companies, most of which are Africa-based tech startups, scale-ups or small and medium sized businesses. The company has regularly been asked by some of these firms to make introductions to investors and also observed the challenges faced by startups, such as access, transparency, intermediaries and fees.

Although AI Media Group has been able to connect some of these companies with investors in the past, the number of requests have been on the rise and the firm now wants to improve on this service in terms of scale, process formalisation and automation through the launch of The Deal Room.

The Deal Room will be hosted on the AI Expo Africa domain — www.aiexpoafrica.com —  which is a popular platform for Africa’s Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) community with over 3 million hits a year allied to a vibrant LinkedIn Group with more than 4 000 members. The Deal Room’s primary aim will be to direct 4IR, AI and smart tech companies seeking funding to investors, VCs and organisations who are interested in backing firms in this rapidly growing sector.  

The Deal Room has attracted six launch investment partners, namely; Cirrus AICape AI VenturesKnife CapitalE4E AfricaBritegaze & Intelligent Impact, with more set to join in the coming months.

Nick Bradshaw, CEO AI Media Group and co-founder of AI Expo Africa explained, “The main idea behind The Deal Room platform is to facilitate rapid matchmaking between an investor and 4IR / AI focused startups and scale-ups that align with the firm’s stage of growth. It’s often a minefield to find the right investor so we curated a group of like minded investors that are interested in this space or who have a track record of similar investments to date. This is a long awaited value add service for our community with no strings attached, no “middleman” and total transparency.”

The Deal Room’s launch investors cover a broad spectrum of the investment lifecycle and include; Cirrus AI CEO Gregg Barrett; Cape AI Ventures co-founder Pieter Boon; Knife Capital co-managing partner Andrea Bohmert; E4E Africa Ventures principal Bakang Komanyane; Britegaze CEO Reshaad Sha, and Intelligent Impact founder Aunnie Patton Power.

Sha stated, “BriteGaze Fund One’s primary purpose is to assist AI businesses to accelerate their growth in South Africa and across the African continent through the provision of growth funding and advisory services to expand into new verticals as well as new geographies.”

Boon stated, “We expect that the Deal Room could be a catalyst for startups in Africa!”

Power stated, “There is such a need for greater transparency for startups that are raising capital. We are excited to have this tool available to the market!”

Bohmert stated, “Investing in companies who solve real world problems applying deep AI capabilities is what we are looking for. We are very excited about The Deal Room and its ability to match startups with investors, embracing a partnership journey that is equally more about substance and less about the hype”. 

Komanyane stated, “The Deal Room will help us identify new 4IR-focused companies that align with our investment goals in this sector, its a great innovation for the Africa tech scene and one we are proud to be associated with”

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Barrett stated, “The Deal Room by AI Media Group will assist in the development of Africa’s AI ecosystem and is therefore an initiative that we are enthused to support and participate in.”

Bradshaw concluded, “The Deal Room’s biggest selling point is there is no complicated paperwork, costs or loss of equity for companies looking to use the platform. They simply answer a set of confidential questions on the nature of their investment needs, details about their company, products or services and the AI Media Group then passes them on to the most appropriate investor(s). Just like internet dating, our goal is to make a perfect match and speed up the process of investment capital flowing into the African 4IR tech sector. We can’t wait to see the results!”

Startups and scale-ups looking to submit their requests for funding can do so via The Deal Room online submission process HERE

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