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Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Egypt is playing catch-up in Africa’s AI sector

Shocker: Egypt’s public service is playing catch-up on artificial intelligence: Egypt ranks 111 out of 194 countries in the latest Government Artificial Intelligence Readiness 2019 report (pdf) published by Oxford Insights. The report ranks countries based on their ability to harness AI to deliver better public services, looking at existing infrastructure, skills, and governance.

The essentials? Quality and availability of data, a strong pool of in-country talent — built through AI education and the general strength of the sector — and a government that displays “both strong political will and capacity to push for innovation.”

Egypt’s AI community is small — but it’s also vibrant and on the field’s cutting edge: Video analytics firm AvidBeam was ranked among the world’s top 20 AI developers in April and attracted seed investment from Egypt Ventures. Meanwhile, Affectiva, which trains robots to read feelings, featured on a Forbes list of the top 10 hot AI technologies in 2017. We have a small but vibrant AI community, with Cairo-based entities like startup The D. GmbH offering digital and tech services to companies, and the Innovation Hub (iHub) catering to students in Egypt, Tunisia and the UK.

And yet our ranking is surprisingly low: It’s hard to fathom how Kenya (52), Tunisia (54), Mauritius (60), South Africa (68), Morocco (80), Rwanda (99) and Nigeria (107) all outrank us, with the report noting that “Cape Town, Addis Ababa, Kigali, and Nairobi [are] all positioning themselves as regional centres for innovation,” without any mention of Cairo. Corporate deployment of AI in Egypt is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 25.5% between now and 2030 and ICT minister Amr Talaat says he will implement a national AI strategy in the next 3-5 years. The report recommends developing clear policies about data usage and availability, opening more tech hubs to spur AI research and development, and working closely with SMEs, open source developers, and educational bodies to help them incorporate AI.

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