The first-ever African Women in AI Summit was held on September 14 by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change to recognise and champion African women as leaders in Artificial intelligence (AI) innovation and governance. The summit’s main topics were African women in AI and the advantages women on the continent can experience if they pursue careers in AI.
On the panel were inspiring women such as Bridget Boakye, Chimaoge Esotu, Adelaide Asante, Jewel N. T., Kemisola Bolarinwa, Abigail Oppong, Winifred Kotin, and Golestan (Sally) Radwan who all discussed the incredible things they are doing with AI, the challenges they face, and just as importantly, how they are earnestly working to ensure equity between women and men.
At the summit, we explored how African nations can harness the power of AI for social good and economic benefit while overcoming pressing barriers. Winifred Kotin from Ghana mentioned that as a continent, there is an opportunity to promote AI as we have available data, technology, talents and problems. She mentioned that as an emerging economy, we have a number of problems which comes to our advantage in harnessing AI.
She also added that the country has a youthful population which provides us with the needed talent to make use of AI once they are well-trained. She added that when it comes to data, there’s a need to digitize the available data to make it easy to use. She finally concluded her point by sharing that AI can create employment opportunities for the growing youth both in her home country and the continent.
One of the favorite lessons was gathered from Lucy Agyepong when she shared that and we paraphrase; “As women, we are expected to be in the kitchen, but in the kitchen, we mix oil, onions etc to cook and that’s chemistry, we are already in STEM from doing kitchen work”. This was more than enough motivation to urge all young, talented and ambitious ladies present to pursue their goals in Artificial Intelligence.
The panel also spoke about the challenges of the adoption of AI on the continent. Madam Adelaide Asante mentioned some of the challenges in the adoption of AI as; the collection of data, rates and access to the internet, and the ethics regulating the accessibility of data.
On the topic of how to get more women in AI, Chimoge, one of the panelists, mentioned that in her home country (Nigeria), her organization is encouraging more ladies in their ecosystem by implementing AI-centered classes, mentorship programs and boot camps. She also added that to get more women in AI, there’s the need to get the perception that their abilities are limited out of their minds.
An intriguing question that smeared the halls of the premises was; :”do women have anything to lose from AI?” It was agreed amongst participants that there was nothing to lose from AI for women. Women being involved in AI will give all women a representation when it comes to decision-making as they will contribute to the design and decision-making as it pertains to the creation of AI models leveraged in our respective communities.
The round table talk, which included women leaders in AI, had some of them share their experiences in the field. It was advised that more women are encouraged to be in the space and also advised that the ladies present must make an effort to avail themselves to mentor and support other women who make the effort to join the vibrant AI ecosystem.
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