Skip to main content

Stream every public session from the 27th annual Global Conference right here on our website.

Africa’s Talent Has the Potential to Help Power the AI Revolution

Power of Ideas
Africa’s Talent Has the Potential to Help Power the AI Revolution

If you read the headlines, the conversation about AI revolves around chip shortages, record-breaking stocks, and unruly chatbots. But behind the headlines are numerous leaders in business, academia, and government working to understand what the potential of AI is for markets, how to define the governance around it, and—most crucially—how it will reshape the skills needed for tomorrow’s workforce. Goldman Sachs economists predict that the equivalent of 300 million jobs could be automated by AI, and executives estimate that 40 percent of their workforce will need to reskill as a result of implementing AI over the next three years, according to IBM. These are staggering numbers.

AI will not just change the skills needed by our workforce but will likely have a major impact on the global economy. AI may have the potential to boost GDP by 7 percent and increase productivity growth by 1.5 percentage points over a 10-year period, as Goldman Sachs reports. But to take advantage of the transformative potential of AI, and of the increased potential in productivity, we need to ensure the global workforce is ready. We believe innovative companies are built on the idea that talent can be found anywhere.

Are businesses and governments maximizing the potential of global talent?

The beneficiaries of the AI revolution won’t necessarily be companies with the most sophisticated technology; they will be the ones that harness the talent who know how to best deploy that technology. And the reality is that those people are just as likely to be found in Abuja, Nairobi, or Kigali as they are in San Francisco, London, or Singapore.

To take advantage of that opportunity, we need to ensure that everybody has access to the necessary skills in technology, engineering, finance, and data to benefit from this economic and technological evolution. It’s not enough to provide this kind of education at a few elite institutions to people who can afford the tuition and happen to be in the right place at the right time. As technology makes the world smaller and more connected, we need to ask ourselves: Are businesses and governments maximizing the potential of global talent?

Leaders in Rwanda and Kenya are showing the way. This year, Rwanda will host an AI Summit in partnership with the World Economic Forum to create a dialogue around the role AI could play in Africa’s future. And Kenya is prioritizing transformation into a tech hub as a key policy priority, making major investments in the necessary infrastructure for a tech-based economy, as reported in AllAfrica.

Business also has a role to play in democratizing access to education, and with a young and diverse population, Africa is a ripe place to invest in access to in-demand skills. We’re seeing a growing number of EdTech start-ups come out of Kenya, Tanzania, and Nigeria that expand access to education and help enable young learners to excel, according to HolonIQ.

At the other end of the education journey, WorldQuant University provides free, online education programs to advanced STEM students who already have a bachelor’s degree but want to take their studies further. It serves 14,000 students in 135 countries, and one-third of those students reside in Africa. WorldQuant University has partnered with the Africa Dialogues to foster deeper connections between tech hubs in Africa and advanced STEM students. Our partnership expands free access to AI and data-focused online programs for African students, enhancing their capabilities to navigate the digitized world and bringing greater prosperity to communities that are often overlooked by major employers. As reported by the McKinsey Global Institute, with Africa hosting over 345 large companies that have annual revenues surpassing $1 billion, the demand for skilled workers proficient in STEM will be crucial to strengthen productivity and increase growth for African businesses.

Ultimately, if we continue to look for talent in the same places, we’ll yield the same results: Prosperity will be concentrated in a handful of global hubs, and we will miss out on the diversity of ideas and innovation that come from embracing a truly global perspective. To unlock the full potential of both AI and global talent, we as leaders need to make sure that everybody has access to the necessary skills and education to participate in the next evolution of the global economy.

The views and opinions expressed in this article reflect Igor Tulchinsky’s and Nima Elmi’s perspectives and do not necessarily represent the views of WorldQuant or its affiliates.