By Tonya Nyakeya, THINKLab & Ecosystem Lead at IBM Research – Africa
Artificial intelligence has transformed the world – there is no doubt about that.
As Artificial Intelligence continues to mature, nations around the globe – especially in Africa – should rely on it more than ever to drive large-scale transformation and competitiveness. From agriculture and remote health services to translating languages, AI can play an important role in helping Africa tackle economic problems.
As the adoption of AI driven by the continuing repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis, general business needs, and the technology being more accessible across the continent – building strategic private-public collaboration among government, key stakeholders, startups and developers to accelerate the adoption of AI has become increasingly important for the development of the continent.
Creating an AI ecosystem and forging local and global relationships is vital. With foresight and planning, the technological revolution that AI brings will be a force to empower a fair and prosperous society. Clearly, the continent has much to give and to get from AI.
But first, we need more local AI talent and skills.
That’s where IBM can help. IBM’s two research labs in Kenya and South Africa have been on the continent for decades, striving to advance AI expertise even further – with events like the upcoming free virtual online AI seminar series on August 18 and 25.
The series will cover emerging AI topics including Neurosymbolic AI, Trustworthy AI and Learning and Reasoning for Language Understanding. Leading AI researchers from four IBM Research labs in New York, Haifa, Johannesburg and Nairobi will present their work. While there has been great progress made over the past year, since the beginning of the past decade, the African machine learning community has been steadily growing.
In 2013, a local group of industry practitioners and researchers began Data Science Africa, an annual workshop for sharing resources and ideas. Innovative forms of transcontinental collaborations such as Deep Learning Indaba (a Zulu word for gathering), formed in 2017, now has chapters in 27 of the continent’s 54 countries. And then there’s Zindi, a platform founded in 2018 that challenges African data scientists to solve Africa’s toughest challenges.
Academic courses and other educational programs dedicated to teaching machine learning have sprouted in response to increasing demand. And many globally trained African experts in AI are now returning home. As for IBM Research, in late 2012 we opened our first African office in Nairobi. Then we added another one in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2015. It’s part of a 10-year governmental agreement with the South African Department of Trade and Industry, aiming to step up investment in the country’s information and communications technology infrastructure and boost training.
Discovering what’s next
IBM Research Africa cordially invites all academics, students, developers, researchers and AI practitioners to join the conversation on the future of AI and the role of the African computing community in inventing ‘What’s Next for AI’ in Africa. Academic experts from top African universities will also give keynote talks on the development of AI in Africa.
Get informed and register here
Waxed: Revolutionising Africa’s Transport Industry
Waxd Group CEO, Anthony Stewart (Image & Article: Waxd)
An estimated 70% of Africa’s urban population live in informal settlement housing. They rely on privately-owned minibus taxis and public bus transport systems to travel to work, send their children to school, and live out their day-to-day lives. The need for digital payment and cashless fare collection solutions – that provide a secure and seamless way for people to access the routes they use every single day – is critical.
Digital payment systems for the transport industry will remove the need for physical tickets and cash payments, and speed up transactions and transport times. With public transport spending accounting for up to 10% of consumer income in Africa, the implications for the transport industry are vast. South Africa alone has over 200,000 minibus taxis transporting more than 15 million commuters daily.
The Waxd story started when Waxd patented a method for processing app payments through EFT rails, cutting merchant fees from 2-3.5% to 0.4%. Although the idea was good, it needed the co-operation of the banks. This was not very forthcoming as the solution would cost the banks in transaction revenues. After months of frustration, Waxd decided to look at areas of innovation where the banks had failed.
Waxd provides an accessible payment solution that enables public transport drivers to accept different payment methods from passengers, including biometric and prepaid cards which can be recharged by commuters to pay for their rides. Transport operators, owners and drivers can also track their revenue in real-time and manage their fleet with improved efficiency and transparency.
An informal, unregulated transport industry leads to many challenges being faced by all stakeholders. A digital payment system leads to a simpler, safer payment solution for all – from commuters and drivers, to owners and government.
The Africa transport revolution is happening at a rapid rate, and Waxd is at the forefront of developments – committed to providing technologically-advanced payment solutions and to enabling financial inclusion for everyone.
The State of AI in Africa: 2022 Report
The State of AI in Africa Report launch was held on the 14th June at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Pretoria, South Africa and co-hosted by the World Economic Forum Centre for the 4IR South Africa and City of Tshwane. This 32-page report will appeal to analysts, enterprises, channel managers, governments, VCs or investors, NGOs, Embassies, trade missions and regional promotion agencies who are seeking deeper insights about the dynamics of this rapidly growing frontier tech market.
A key finding was just how cross cutting this technology is, with South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt and Kenya dominating this sector and AI impacting at least 120+ separate market segments across Africa. Privately owned SMMEs or Micro businesses make up 75% of this sector, 40% of which were founded in the last 5 years, showing the importance nation states need to place on supporting their local tech ecosystems.
It’s also attracting serious capital, with Tunisian AI start-up InstaDeep receiving $100m USD Series A funding earlier in 2022. The global AI market is also projected to grow from $387 Bn USD in 2022 to $1,394 Bn by 2029, exhibiting a CAGR of 20%. Bradshaw concluded, “It’s a positive sign that this technology and the growing regional AI start-up ecosystems can win big across Africa if these trends continue.”
A copy of the report can be obtained online here.
The AI Media Group is a South African based industry analysis, publishing & business events consultancy specializing in the 4IR or smart tech sector in Africa. They are curators of AI Expo Africa, the continent’s largest B2B/B2G Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) trade show and publishers of Synapse, the first quarterly trade magazine charting Africa’s 4IR innovation journey. The group also runs AI TV which hosts discussions on trends in AI and 4IR technologies with local, regional and global thought leaders.
Digital Asset Marketplace in a Web3 Economy with Chains CEO
The digital asset landscape has been evolving over the past decade since blockchain technology made it possible to exchange value digitally. This was not previously possible before the launch of the Bitcoin network by Satoshi Nakamoto due to the double-spend problem.
A crypto exchange is effectively a marketplace where people buy and sell cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. The first well-known example of such a platform was Mt Gox which appeared in 2010, created by Jed McCaleb who is also co-founder and the Chief Technology Officer of Stellar – a payment network blockchain ecosystem focused on enabling low-cost cross-border transactions. The exchange imploded when it got hacked for hundreds of thousands of bitcoins and following that, many other exchanges started popping up, promising better security and liquidity.
The industry has evolved since then. Now there are hundreds of crypto exchanges – centralised and decentralised, custodial and non-custodial, from peer-to-peer marketplaces such as Paxful to order-book based exchanges such as Binance. These digital asset marketplaces also offer different services from spot to futures trading, savings products, NFT marketplaces and so much more.
Chains.com hopes to become one of the new market leaders by introducing a comprehensive offering that amalgamates all the different crypto products and services into an all-in-one platform. In this interview, Anderson Mccutcheon, CEO of Chains.com gives insights into the future of crypto marketplaces. Excerpts below:
BAO: How would you best describe Chains?
Anderson: Chains is a MetaFi platform, aimed at the next generation of web3 users. A single account, connected to multiple products, that are connected to multiple blockchains. Our goal is to cater to users that want to utilise cryptocurrency and NFT products, without having to learn the underlying technology.
BAO: There are already many crypto projects offering launchpads, exchanges and marketplaces. Why does space need a platform like Chains?
Anderson: For the same reason the world needs an Apple and a Samsung. A Ferrari and a Lamborghini. Variety and competition breed excellence and better results for users. We see what happens in markets where few players dominate – innovation slows down and users get locked into mediocre products.
BAO: Is Chains an open-source project and are you building on or integrating with any public blockchains?
Anderson: We are integrating with multiple blockchains that are open to various degrees. We natively support ETH, Polygon, BSC and TRON, with our generation-1 products. We will definitely be introducing more support for more blockchains and products in the immediate future.
BAO: What are the components of the Chains blockchain ecosystem? Can you share some key insights into your technology stack?
Anderson: Chains is not a technology company. Just like Coinbase isn’t. We are a product company that uses hundreds of technologies at any given time. We are part of the Amazon Activate program and our centralised services are mostly AWS-powered.
BAO: Are you looking to bring NFTs to your ecosystem in the future? In what ways will NFTs be used within your ecosystem?
Anderson: NFTs are an integral part of our ecosystem. We are conducting one of the biggest NFT allocations in the world with the Deep Space Society GEN-0 drop. 1 million NFTs allocated on Polygon.
BAO: What is a CHA token and can you describe its utility or tokenomics?
Anderson: It’s a utility token that is the backbone of our product ecosystem. Not using CHA and using Chains would mean paying more fees, not having access to certain stages of token sales and advanced marketplace features.
BAO: When can people expect the token sale?
Anderson: We are currently in the pre-sale phase, an opportunity that hasn’t presented itself in years where those who believe in the project can buy into a blue-chip ICO. It’s been a long time since a CeFi/MetaFi platform has conducted a token sale in this way for early adopters.
BAO: Is the sale subject to any regulatory oversight and will you be accepting accredited investors?
Anderson: Yes. We have successfully completed SEC 506c compliance, meaning we are not only compliant, but we can market openly to accredited investors from the US.
BAO: Currently you have one of the most popular whitelists in the entire crypto space, what do you think makes a good crypto project?
Anderson: A strong team, a financial model that has been tested and proven to be working, a multi-year roadmap and a track record of delivering.
BAO: What is vCHA and how can people earn or acquire some?
Anderson: vCHA is a non-currency issued to our early adopters. You can accumulate it by registering, filling out your profile and inviting others to the platform. vCHA is converted into a permanent discount on the platform (which includes the upcoming CHA token sale) , which is the equivalent of staking $5000.
BAO: What can the community expect next from your roadmap?
Anderson: Launchpad comes first. Our goal is to showcase our ability to deliver world class products that can serve hundreds of thousands of users. Prism, our Analytics product, will also be launching this year, and will set a new standard for what a portfolio and asset tracking system should look like.