The network will be coordinated by Knowledge 4 All Foundation and UNESCO Chair in AI in close collaboration and with the generous support of IDRC.


Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to alter our world and to advance human development, with dramatic implications across every sector of society. According to PWC, AI could provide a 15.7 trillion-dollar boost to the world’s GDP by 2030 and is already bringing major advancements to the way we learn, conduct business and monitor our health.

Mobile AI applications could deliver the kind of quality health care diagnosis usually reserved for the rich to remote locations at very low costs; it could also advance quality education with highly personalized teaching programs for all ages across the world.

Network importance

At the same time, the indiscriminate dissemination of AI applications could also exacerbate inequalities. As AI applications spread rapidly across sectors and around the globe, more research is required to better understand how AI applications impact human development.

To enhance the economic and social prospects of people in the global South, it is critical to support knowledge, skills development, and the institutions to responsibly implement and govern these technologies.

To this end, we will invest and design a range of AI for development initiatives, focusing on innovations, foundations and governance. These initiatives will support relevant research, develop AI applications that are inclusive, ethical, and rights-based, and strengthen and create appropriate capacity building programs.


This project’s overall objective is to establish a Network of Excellence in AI in sub-Saharan Africa that contributes to sustainable development through the responsible and inclusive design and deployment of AI in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Specifically, the project will:

  1. Establish an SSA network of AI researchers, practitioners and ethicists with knowledge of machine learning;
  2. Develop an AI research agenda for SSA;
  3. Assess and deepen our understanding of AI capacity and use in SSA with the aim of developing a capacity building agenda;
  4. Spur AI innovation projects that focus on ethical, inclusive, participatory and gender-responsive approaches/application to address development challenges, with consideration for SDG targets.

Building on existing work

The project will draw from the recent IDRC and UNESCO supported mapping and PASCAL2 Network to facilitate a bottom-up network/community of researchers who will investigate and recommend how the network/community should shape its research agenda and actions. The project will align with Humane AI, a European FET Flagship Project Proposal for new ethical, trustworthy, AI technologies to enhance human capabilities and empower citizens and society.

Additionally, the project will consider effective capacity building approaches based on identified policy and educational frameworks within the target countries.


AI4D Africa will be starting Dec 2018 and run for 18 months and result in the establishment of the network, a research “roadmap”, a portfolio of innovation projects, and recommendations for capacity building for ethical and locally relevant AI research around the African continent.