The network will be coordinated by Knowledge 4 All Foundation and IDRC in close collaboration with UNESCO Chair in AI.


Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to alter our world and to advance human development, with dramatic implications across every sector of society. According to PWC, AI could provide a 15.7 trillion-dollar boost to the world’s GDP by 2030 and is already bringing major advancements to the way we learn, conduct business and monitor our health.

There is a consensus that AI is changing our world, that it is here to stay and that it offers a vital commercial opportunity in every sector. However, the future of AI is uncertain, especially in Africa. While these technologies have accomplished impressive feats, including diagnosing disease and making self-driving cars a reality, other profound, and perhaps darker, implications have emerged.

Broad AI for Development intitiative

At the same time, the indiscriminate dissemination of AI applications could also exacerbate inequalities. As AI applications spread rapidly across sectors and around the globe, more research is required to better understand how AI applications impact human development.

To enhance the economic and social prospects of people in the Global South, it is critical to support knowledge, skills development, and the institutions to responsibly implement and govern these technologies.

To this end, we will invest and design a range of AI for development (AI4D) initiatives, focusing on innovations, foundations and governance. These initiatives will support relevant community building, research, develop AI applications that are inclusive, ethical, and rights-based, and strengthen and create appropriate capacity building programs.

Activities of the African AI network

The main purpose of the AI for Development (AI4D) Africa project is to support a network of excellence in AI in sub-Saharan Africa to strengthen and develop community scientific and technological excellence in a range of AI-related issue areas. Specifically, the project will run 4 activities:

  1. Develop a network of institutions and individuals working on and researching AI from across sub-Saharan Africa, via workshops and consultations
  2. Deliver an AI research agenda with a focus on ethical, legal and social aspects of AI research
  3. Generate an AI capacity building agenda via a survey of universities
  4. Issue a call for at least ten multidisciplinary innovation projects within and outside the network, exploring local frontiers of research in AI

Additionally, the project will consider effective capacity building approaches based on identified policy and educational frameworks within the target countries.

Building on existing work

The project will draw from the recent K4A, IDRC and UNESCO supported mapping and PASCAL2 Network to facilitate a bottom-up network/community of researchers who will investigate and recommend how the network/community should shape its research agenda and actions.

Connection to other networks

The project will seek to align with Humane AI, a European FET Flagship Project Proposal for new ethical, trustworthy, AI technologies to enhance human capabilities and empower citizens and society. The project includes three major European AI communities such as ELLIS, CLAIRE and PASCAL.


AI4D Africa will be starting Dec 2018 and run for 18 months and result in the establishment of the network, a research “roadmap”, a portfolio of innovation projects, and recommendations for capacity building for ethical and locally relevant AI research around the African continent.