Updated: Dec 7, 2020
The question is posed given the pace at which the advance of AI is travelling and the danger that this acceleration may lead to “unnatural”, un-intended consequences, with little or no relevance to Africa’s journey toward a more unified polity.
Whilst it appears as though the symbolic reference to artificial is neutral, perhaps we need a reference and application that is exclusively complementary to the human spirit and to the common principles that bind us together as peoples. Whilst these are universal questions concerning all of humanity, our focus on Africa is particularly poignant given the window of opportunity that is presenting itself via the coming into force of the The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The opportunity is for African states and it peoples to rise beyond the shadows of the dominant power blocs that for the best part of 400-500 years have stirred a particular global narrative that has bounced between a binary focus of ‘them versus us’, where ever this notional reality has been accepted; and which as we know, has wreaked havoc for much of the continent throughout that period.
Authentic intelligence systems from within Africa’s various civilisations, continue to flow within the continent, most notably at the grass roots level. However, to a great extent their prominence as legitimate bases and reference points lay dormant; or at best simmer, existing within narrow spheres of immediate and/or marginal application. There is a need for these systems of intelligence to be placed at the centre of how we build our societies.
Re-creating historical linkages that have bound the continent together, not as one homogeneous unit, but as interconnected ecosystems, that spiral between communities, localities, regions etc., with simultaneous flows of energy upwards, downwards, and circularly, is perhaps a network vision of Africa that requires to be re-established, forming an important focus for the continental psyche to adopt.
Infrastructural activity in Africa is gaining ground and yet to provide a meaningful and sustained base that facilitates holistic growth, there must at first come the mental and spiritual conception of what our regenerated world looks like. It is from there that we can then plan and execute on bringing this world to life.
Our mission - is it to ensure that these internal design thought processes converge from one African state to the next. And ought these frames of references to form an important relationship to the AI story that is developing. In other words, can we make AI work for an agreed vision of unity or indeed can AI itself help Africa conceive the vision in the first place and moreover operationalise it?
Is there in this very fundamental question a need to re-frame what is being touted and developed as an artificial force to one that emphasises a complementary quality instead: Complementary Intelligence (CI) serving specific foundational human centred outcomes that we consciously design and engineer to ensure that CI meets and/or assists our understanding of how best to meet the needs of Africa, its diaspora and humanity at large.
The authentic intelligence systems of Africa are often camouflaged by the chaos that often persists in light of a scrambled state of affairs across the continent, a consequence and continuum of the realities of the last 400-500 years. However, what are we doing to expose and highlight the gemstones, literally and figuratively speaking, that are there to be found throughout our communities and the solutions these may offer for many of today’s societal problems; from governance and justice mechanisms, agricultural methods, transactional activities, etc. What part can these phenomena play in the AI narrative or in the transformation of AI into CI?.
We have a clear target - to actualise the AfCFTA and further measures to unify the continent in a manner that counters the effects of the scramble for Africa that structurally remains in place to this day is. It is time to put technology to work with a clear and intentional purpose.