Mahamudu Bawumia: AI and Data Investment is Key to Africa’s Transformation

Unlocking the Potential of AI in Africa: The Power of Data

Africa’s Potential for AI Growth

Africa stands at a pivotal moment in its history as we see the artificial intelligence (AI) movement sweep across continents. With a rapidly growing population of 1.4 billion people, 70% of whom are under the age of 30, combined with huge growth in AI investments, Africa has a goldmine at its fingertips. The continent is set to see the fastest growth in AI spending worldwide, reaching $3bn (£2.4bn) this year and an expected $6.4bn by 2026.

Missed Opportunities and Greater Potential

Africa has historically missed out on the benefits of the first, second, and third industrial revolutions, but we are determined that our continent will not miss the fourth and fifth. To achieve this, we must start with the critical component – data. For the world to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs), data is critical, yet for eight of the 17 goals, fewer than half of all countries have data to report.

Harnessing the Power of Data

The piece in the puzzle that will make AI a reality for Africa is data. Coupled with highly skilled national tech expertise and private-sector investments, data systems have an average return of $32 for every dollar invested. Data is the key to unlocking an independent and wealthy future for Africa by creating new economic opportunities that benefit everyone. With in-country experts who collect and analyze data, Africa can be in control of its own success.

AI’s Progress in Agriculture

Since Google opened its first Africa-based AI research center in Accra in 2019, we have seen progress in various areas, including agriculture, healthcare, and education. Farmers in particular can benefit from AI, as seen in the projects currently underway. Ghanaian cashew farmers use unmanned aerial vehicles in an AI-powered disease-detection innovation to detect pest and disease symptoms before visible damage occurs. This innovation holds particular value as Africa produces half of the world’s cashew nuts.

Another project uses AI to predict post-harvest shortages and gluts for smallholder farmers in Ghana. By building better prediction models for crop yields, Ghana and the region can have greater food security. With 33 million smallholder farms contributing up to 70% of the food supply in Africa, data-driven technology has the potential to transform livelihoods and food security across the region.

Preparing a Data Workforce

As the AI acceleration changes the nature of work, we must prepare a generation of young people to be at the forefront of the revolution, leading Africa into this new era. With a growing number of young people being trained in data and AI, we have a workforce ready to take on the tech revolution and drive economic transformation across Africa. In 2021, Ghana’s Academic City University College in Accra became the first African higher education institution to launch a degree in artificial intelligence.

Driving the Revolution with Local Solutions and Brains

To fully unlock the potential of AI in Africa, leaders must show commitment to this agenda at the UN sustainable development goal summit in New York in September. This must focus on funding, building capacity development, skills, and partnerships. An investment in private- and public-sector workforces and building joined-up data systems will break down the digital divide between countries and allow Ghana and our African neighbors to be in control of our success. This revolution must be driven by locally led solutions and brains.


Data is the lifeblood for making decisions and is what will unlock an independent, wealthy future for Africa, making sure that new economic opportunities are shared. Investing in a highly skilled data workforce coupled with private-sector investments will be key to unlocking AI’s potential in Africa. The global summits this year provide a historic opportunity for a new way of doing development. We must show commitment to funding, building capacity development, skills, and partnerships to fully harness the power of AI in Africa.

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