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South Africa Begins to Chart Its Course for AI Development

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The central theme at Africa Tech Week, hosted at Century City in Cape Town, revolved around artificial intelligence (AI). Although AI has been a prominent topic at numerous tech events in South Africa over the past year, this particular event had a distinct atmosphere. Government officials, corporate representatives, and startups at the conference showcased more refined AI strategies compared to a few months ago.

During a keynote address to the 300 attendees in the dimly lit Century City conference center, South Africa’s Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Mondli Gungubele, highlighted the country’s journey toward catching up with the global advancements in AI as long but promising.

In a subsequent interview with TechCabal, Gungubele emphasized that the South African government is focused on providing a solid regulatory framework to foster AI innovation within the country. “We aim to step back and allow startups to develop local AI products, and we are currently creating the necessary framework to support this,” Gungubele stated.

Nedbank, one of South Africa’s leading commercial banks with a customer base exceeding 7 million, has its AI strategy focused on harnessing AI predictive analysis rather than the currently popular generative AI. “We have been leveraging predictive analysis over the past decade to provide self-service products to our customers. Currently, we are exploring the use of generative AI to hyper-personalize our offerings,” stated Chipo Mushwana, Nedbank’s executive for payments and technology.

On the other hand, Mukuru, a prominent cross-border payment provider in southern Africa with over 16 million customers across the continent, is actively implementing various AI use cases throughout the company. According to Andy Jury, CEO of Mukuru, these use cases span from internal operations to customer interactions with agents and users. “We utilize AI to forecast our working capital needs, enhance our agents’ customer service abilities, and assist our developers in coding more efficiently,” Jury shared with TechCabal.

A few months ago, many comments from government, corporate, and startup representatives about their use of AI sounded like mere PR speak. However, this has changed. The government now emphasizes the need for a regulatory framework that enables AI, while corporates like Nedbank are finding value in alternative AI use cases such as predictive analysis. Meanwhile, startups like Mukuru are expanding their AI applications to their agent networks to enhance efficiency.

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