Artificial intelligence (A.I) is slowly gaining prominence in the African setting, according to AI4D, it is poised to enhance productivity, innovation and help countries across sub-Saharan Africa to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
These included applications in key sectors such as health, agriculture, financial technology (fintech), public transportation, and also in specific areas such as improving language learning and use.
In most of these sectors, AI is being used to circumvent existing economic inefficiencies and to improve access to public and private services.
Companies alike have upped their ante to capitalize on this fast-growing industry and also solve pressing issues that are challenging the African region.
- Sophie Bot – A free Chatbot that works on several popular messaging apps. It relies on AI to process and reply to questions on sexual and reproductive health. According to an interviewee, people can access the application more easily and freely than going to a doctor.
- Numberboost is a South African company working to develop a system to allow citizens to locate nearby mobile healthcare clinics — a service that could help improves citizen access to healthcare.
- Vital Signs analyses pixels’ value and colour from satellite imagery data to estimate rainfall and drought patterns.
- Arifu provides curated access to information via SMS to help farmers determine, for example, what fertilizer matches their specific needs.
- FarmDrive offers credit for farmers in need of supplies (e.g., fertilizers) by relying on data such as the size of land, location, and crops to determine the risk and corresponding interest rates.
- Zenvus seeks to improve decision-making for farmers by providing insights based on data collected from sensors and other means.
- Aerobotics is assisting the agricultural industry by using drone aerial imagery to identify problems in crop yields, which is important considering the challenges faced by the industry including sustained periods of drought.
- Tala uses a mobile app to assess and disburse loans to customers that do not have a credit history. Through the app, the company can assess these traditionally excluded customers by analysing Facebook and SMS data to determine a customer’s risk of default.
- Kudi.ai has developed a system that allows users to improve money transfers. Using natural language processing and artificial intelligence, Kudi.ai attempts to make peer-to-peer payment easier for Nigerians using a Chabot that works on popular messaging apps, like Facebook Messenger.
- RoadPreppers have developed a solution that allows users to navigate traffic congestion with driving directions and public transport options.
- lara.ng uses a chatbot to provide public transportation directions and fares for commuters in Lagos. Both are viewed as better than existing options, such as Google Maps; as an interviewee noted, they provide the commuter with more transparent information on fares from different public transport providers.
- Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is a South African firm which works on the use of automatic speech recognition to support language learning and translation. This is an important and complex task given that there are eleven official languages in the country, with most existing language technology options limited to English and Afrikaans.
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