EAC Bloc Adopts Comprehensive Roadmap For Responsible AI Implementation

The Eastern Africa sub-regional forum on Artificial Intelligence concluded this week with a high-level round table discussion on “AI and Sustainable Development in Eastern Africa.”
EAC Bloc Adopts Comprehensive Roadmap For Responsible AI Implementation
From Right-UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences Gabriela Ramos launches the 2024 UNESCO’s Nairobi declaration on Ai to Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Education H.E Hon Ezekiel Machogu, looking on (Right) is Kenya’s Permanent Representative to UNESCO Ambassador Prof. Peter Ngure (Middle), KNATCOM-UNESCO Secretary General and CEO Dr James Njogu ( second left) and UNESCO’s Regional Office For East Africa Mr Alexandros Makarigakis ( far left).

The three-day event, which began on Monday, 23rd JUNE 2024 brought together ministers and key stakeholders from across the region to address the challenges and opportunities presented by AI technologies.The forum’s closing session, moderated by UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, Ms. Gabriela Ramos, featured a panel of distinguished ministers from Kenya, Seychelles, Uganda, Comoros, and Somalia.

The discussion focused on strategies to strengthen human and institutional capacities in AI throughout Eastern Africa, drawing on diverse country experiences. A significant highlight of the event was the launch of Kenya’s AI Readiness Assessment report, which is expected to serve as a blueprint for the country’s AI development and implementation strategies. Kenya was commended for being the first of 22 countries to accept the Readiness Assessment Report, setting a precedent for other nations in the region.

H.E. Kamalidini Souef, Minister of Post and Telecommunications and of Digital Economy from Comoros, emphasized the importance of regional cooperation, stating, “Although we have different countries’ specificities, within the AI ecosystem, let us identify common challenges and denominators. We all want to engage in meaningful partnerships.”

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Uganda’s Minister of ICT and National Guidance, H.E. Dr. Chris Baryomunsi, delivered a compelling address highlighting the potential of AI to address quality of life issues while cautioning about the need for robust policies. He stated, “The African population is largely young

And we, who are in the political leadership, we hear the voices of young people loud and clear, and we believe that technology and AI can be part of the answer that if we integrate technology, if we embrace the positive aspects of AI, this can help us to address issues of quality of life.”Dr. Baryomunsi further emphasized the importance of preparedness, saying, “All of us as countries must be prepared to ensure that technology becomes part and parcel of our programs and the interventions which we are pursuing in our different countries.”

He also stressed the need for caution, adding, “As we embrace technology, we must beware of the downside of technology and AI inclusive. And that’s why we must have specific policies, legislations, and other measures that take into consideration the different aspects of different countries, especially within the African setting.”Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Education, H.E. Ezekiel Machogu, described the forum as a “wake-up call,” stressing the importance of taking tangible measures to avoid lagging behind in AI development. He noted that the newly launched Readiness Assessment Report would help guide Kenya’s future actions in the field.

The forum concluded with the adoption of the Nairobi Statement on Artificial Intelligence in Eastern Africa. H.E. Mr. Peter K. Ngure, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Kenya to UNESCO, presented key recommendations from the statement:

  1. Commit to developing knowledge in line with African ethical values to understand the social and technological implications of AI, facilitating work with different stakeholders.
  2. Facilitate policy dialogues at every level to mitigate the digital divide and encourage the building of governance mechanisms to monetize data collected from African people.
  3. Strengthen the capacity of government, civil society, and the private sector to understand and use AI technologies and applications. Consider both the opportunities and challenges that AI presents for youth.
  4. 4. Expand investment towards infrastructure development to address cross-cutting issues for
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AI. Establish ICT innovation and technology hubs and incubation centers.

Ambassador Ngure emphasized that these recommendations aim to position Eastern Africa as an active and ethical participant in the global AI landscape while ensuring that AI development aligns with the region’s unique needs and values.

The adoption of the Nairobi Statement marks a significant milestone in Eastern Africa’s journey towards harnessing AI for sustainable development. It underscores the region’s commitment to fostering innovation, protecting citizens’ rights, and creating an enabling environment for AI technologies to thrive.

As the forum concluded, participants expressed optimism about the future of AI in Eastern Africa. The event has laid a strong foundation for regional cooperation and set the stage for implementing concrete actions to realize the potential of AI in addressing developmental challenges across the region.


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