Here’s why I think AI should become human right in Africa

Sunday November 19 2023

A cartoon illustration. PHOTO | NMG


It is not easy to keep up with what “young people” are doing with AI. It is called Artificial Intelligence in full, but I would rather call it Accelerated Intelligence, because it is natural human beings behind it.

The other day, a young friend made me laugh at myself when he disabused me of the of the awe, I held a certain “young lady” for “her” rapid accumulation of followers on social media.

It transpires that the “young lady” does not exist. She looks so natural, and the clothes she changes into at the many places she takes her photos from are so fitting. But she is just an AI product possibly created by a bored grey-haired old man.

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Then the scales fell off my eyes as I realised the shirtless “guy” with a six pack, who has been around for several months, seen walking through some crowded African markets, is in the same category. How could I have been so blind! No wonder “he” doesn’t react to the admiring gestures of the crowds.

All that is fun and fine. But to what use can we put these freely available capabilities? My mind races quickly to the negative campaign waged by bigger powers against our weaker countries. Surely, our creative young people can do some feeble defensive work, can’t they?


Unlike the proverbial small man who pours some sand in the bullying giant’s eye, let us pay evil with good and dress the bully with a robe of gold and spray him with expensive fragrance.

For instance, the other day, when Africa and the world were preparing to go for to Uganda’s fast-growing annual Nyege Nyege cultural festival, big powers issued security alerts warning people not to go/ move around the country. In particular, they singled out Jinja — the source of River Nile — where Nyege Nyege is held. Even if the security warning against travel to Jinja was genuine, it came not long after threats to campaign against Uganda’s tourism, and many Ugandans thus saw it as malicious economic sabotage.

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So, it is time Africans from weaker states started using Accelerated Intelligence to try and protect their livelihood. Is someone decided to pour poison in your food, would you be blamed if you covered the plate or putting it away?

Instead of, or rather in addition to circulating videos of non-existent hunks and beauties, how about circulating some of a few look-alikes of leaders from powerful countries handing out sweets to children at the iconic Jinja bridge and then having a blast at the Nyege Nyege? They will look so human and even those hurt by their malicious acts against a poor nation could view them more positively.

Of course, the struggle to develop African economies cannot be limited to humorous counteraction to the negative propaganda of wealthy outsiders. African scientists have to be at the frontline of applying Accelerated Intelligence.

I remember growing up in Entebbe in the decade following Independence, we used to hear lies coming from the airport that it would require an African ten years to learn to remove and put back one nut on an airplane. This meant that for an African to become an aircraft engineer or pilot it would take a million years. But, even if that racist claim were true, the learning process can now be shortened by one million times using AI.

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So, even as the powerful nations meet in the UK this month to plan AI safety for the globe, the African Union should also urgently plot how to deploy Accelerated Intelligence for the continent’s development as fast as possible. The AU should declare access to AI a human right on the continent and develop a strategy to operationalise the declaration.

By using AI, African planners can, for instance, tell the quantity of resources at their disposal, the optimal options to harness them to meet the needs of our people, to convert their raw materials into finished quality products and where to source the tools to do so. This can be done in seconds after asking the right questions.

Possibly in some countries crafty fellows will soon push for the creation of AI agencies or desks in the IT authorities and even source loan funding for this. It will be up to our uncontaminated young, tech-savvy people to expose them so that even if they rob, the public should know that they are being robbed. This should save us ageing fellows from crying “thief, thief!” from time to time.