By The Division of Communications & Advancement
Rhodes University proudly spotlights the ground-breaking work of one of its lecturers, Dr Chikezie E. Uzuegbunam, whose research on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Africa has garnered international recognition. Funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, this journey began with a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Cape Town and has now reached an inspiring milestone at the 2023 African Studies Association (ASA) Annual Meeting in San Francisco.
Dr Uzuegbunam was among the 20 fellows funded by Carnegie and recognised for outstanding scholarship in various disciplines. This prestigious cohort represents both Carnegie’s and ASA’s vision of future-focused, multidisciplinary scholarship in Africa. Rhodes University is honoured to be represented among this elite cohort.
Dr Uzuegbunam’s research, which aligns with the innovative "Afro-Futures" theme, presented a nuanced, contextualized view of AI, offering a decolonial perspective centred on the African context. This innovative approach to understanding AI's development and implications on the continent was recognised for its timeliness and relevance, addressing a topic that has been largely overlooked in global discussions.
Of significance, the research highlighted the emergence of AI in Africa, with its applications spanning politics, poverty alleviation, healthcare, education, and more. This evolving AI ecosystem, shaped by international tech giants and indigenous initiatives, aligns AI systems with African interests and culture. However, the exploration also revealed significant ethical, policy, and regulatory challenges, emphasising the need for a balanced and comprehensive understanding of AI's broader implications on fundamental rights and freedoms.
During the ASA meetings, Dr Uzuegbunam delved deeper into the multifaceted nature of technology in Africa. The emphasis was on a multi-dimensional approach to studying technology, exploring its potentials and drawbacks, with the Humanities playing a crucial role in offering a more holistic perspective.
The research identifies Mauritius, Morocco, Egypt, South Africa, Tunisia, Kenya, Ghana, and Nigeria as the front-runners in AI development in Africa. The research anticipates a vibrant African AI ecosystem led by young tech innovators and start-ups. Despite challenges such as dependency on Western models and a need for coherence in AI policymaking, the continent is poised for growth, especially with an increased educational focus on Data Science, AI, and Machine Learning.
Looking ahead, Dr Uzuegbunam plans to actively engage in ASA's scholarly activities, including conferences, workshops, research collaborations, and publishing. This involvement will contribute significantly to understanding AI and its implications in Africa. Currently supervising MA students on AI's impact on South African journalism, Dr Uzuegbunam anticipates introducing AI components into the media and journalism curriculum, enriching the academic offering at Rhodes University.
This journey underscores the university's commitment to cutting-edge research and highlights the significant role of African perspectives in the global AI discourse.