Artificial intelligence: Africa takes up the subject
As AI systems like ChatGPT begin to disrupt our daily lives, the global race for innovation is accelerating. The biggest advances are taking place in the United States, China and Europe. Yet Africa is gearing up to take its place and embrace the fourth industrial revolution. An illustration from Dakar with BAAMTU, a company specialized in software engineering, big data and artificial intelligence.
A lever for progress and growth
Developed by OpenAI in San Francisco, the chatbot ChatGPT is on everyone's lips. Trained on a vast collection of texts, ChatGPT can carry on human-like conversations, answer questions, produce computer code and generate natural-sounding prose on any subject.
This impressive artificial intelligence has caught the interest of companies and projects around the world. That includes Africa, which also wants to take advantage of the opportunities presented by AI.
In Senegal, a growing number of initiatives are developing new applications.
“African languages are poorly represented on the web. With chatbots, we provide custom conversational systems in any language. We are thus improving the means of translation and facilitating access to information for all,” said Mayoro Diagne, Director of Operations at BAAMTU in Dakar. His company is tackling other problems specific to Africa, using artificial intelligence.
“In the field of telemedicine, chatbots help guide people through their care. At the request of the Ministry of Health, we have developed a self-diagnosis technology for hemophilia, accessible on a smartphone,” said Derguene Mbaye, a research engineer at BAAMTU.
The Dakar-based company is also using artificial intelligence to make mundane admin tasks easier:
“With optical character or image recognition, artificial intelligence can easily compile data and automate tasks. It is a great alternative to paper, when many citizens have difficulties finding their civil status,” Mbaye added.
African expertise on the international stage
Agriculture, education, security, health, commerce: artificial intelligence is gradually penetrating all spheres of daily life.
“New jobs are coming up. We are seeing new training institutions emerge in Senegal, while more and more local companies are interested in data science and want to take advantage of artificial intelligence,” Diagne said, “Africa is in the process of taking a leap forward and building a proper model to meet its own challenges, in line with the expectations of its people.”
This enthusiasm is raising a lot of interest and questions, which require more discussion by a broad range of people. With the NTF V project at the International Trade Centre (ITC), BAAMTU in February held a conference at the International Trade Fair for Digital Economy Professionals in Dakar.
It was an opportunity to showcase its expertise in artificial intelligence and to present its chatbot. Since this presentation, BAAMTU has been approached by new partners and continues to expand through its subsidiaries, particularly in Nigeria.
“BAAMTU's goal is to embrace the opportunities of artificial intelligence to ensure that it has a positive human impact. Just like the Tunisian startup InstaDeep, which has been purchased by the German laboratory BioNtech, we are convinced that African expertise in artificial intelligence has strong assets to promote internationally,” Mbaye said.
The Netherlands Trust Fund V (NTF) (July 2021 - June 2025) is based on a partnership between the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the International Trade Centre. The programme supports SMEs in the digital technology and agribusiness sectors in Benin, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Senegal and Uganda. It aims at contributing to an inclusive and sustainable transformation of agri-food systems partly through digital solutions, improving the competitiveness of local tech start-ups internationally and supporting the implementation of IT&BPO companies’ export strategies.