Kenya leads Africa in new technology.

Kenya has been ranked top in Africa in terms of the Government’s artificial intelligence (AI) readiness, according to a new report.

This highlights the country’s stride in preparing for the adoption of the new revolutionary technology compared to its regional peers.

A new study by the International Development Research Center (IDRC) and Oxford Insights ranks Kenya first on the continent and 52nd globally, with other African countries lagging behind.

“There are already numerous examples to show that AI is being applied to local problems,” said Isaac Rutenberg, a senior lecturer and the director of the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT) at Strathmore Law School.

“From sexual and reproductive health monitoring chatbots in Kenya to smart farming in Nigeria, to the tracking of illegal fishing in West Africa by AI-powered drones, the potential for AI to aid localised technology solutions is emerging.”

However, lack of local research and data on the extent of application development and skills readiness in Africa, the report notes, means much of the knowledge is still contextualised on the realities of Western economies.

This has raised concern that policymakers will have to learn from the experiences of developed economies, perpetually remaining behind the adoption curve.

A report by the Kenya Association of Manufacturers and the overseas development institute released last year warned thousands of Kenyans could be rendered jobless in the near future as increased digitisation in global manufacturing draws capital from developing countries to developed countries.

“Deployment of digital technologies and robotics in manufacturing will destroy some jobs and tasks but will also create new jobs and tasks in manufacturing sectors that produce and supply parts for these new machines, as well as in complementary services sectors,” said the report in part.

“Analysis of Kenyan manufacturing undertaken in this paper suggests that micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are the least prepared in building digital capabilities; only 20-40 per cent of MSMEs have an IT policy in place, compared to 78 per cent of large firms that have an IT policy in place,” explained the report.

Among Kenyan manufacturers, the machinery, transport and electronic sectors led in the adoption of digitisation, followed by firms in textiles, garments and leather sectors.

The food sector lagged behind other sectors in terms of digitisation.

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