launch of ARCAI, a research center for artificial intelligence in Brazzaville

A new research center dedicated to artificial intelligence was inaugurated in late February by the Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo, ARCAI, at the Kintele University in Brazzaville, the capital. This center, funded by the ECA (Economic Commission for Africa) and its partners, aims to “ Enabling the people of Africa to benefit from the industrial revolution “ by accessing learning that bridges the digital divide, enhances inclusive economic growth and ensures that Africa learns modern digital tools.

AI deployment and implementation are part of the development programs of an increasing number of African countries. Several initiatives have emerged at the continental level, including the African Infrastructure Development Program (PIDA) and the African Union Commission’s Global Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa.

Developing digital infrastructure and services in health, agriculture, education and trade, and bridging the digital divide will enable Africa to realize its potential for digital transformation.

ARCAI, Pan-African Center of the Congo

ARCAI aims to promote AI learning, as well as support research, infrastructure, digital policy and finance.

As for teaching, he will, among other things, offer master’s programs in artificial intelligence and data science.

Maktar Sec, head of technology and innovation at ECA, said in an interview with franceinfo Africa:

“We have developed LMD (Bachelor of Doctoral) content, which will be provided from next year in collaboration with the University of Sassu N’Hesso. The center is equipped with an e-learning platform that can accommodate 10,000 students at a time. Full-time courses will also be available to representatives of the private sector and governments. »

Research on agriculture, health, industry and the environment will be able to begin this month as soon as the high-performance computers needed to “Data structuring” that requires “Powerful machines”.

Maktar Sec told franceinfo Africa:

“Online courses have already started. We expect researchers from Africa as well as from all continents. There is a partnership with several universities working in the field of artificial intelligence in Africa and Europe, the United States and England. »

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and large companies such as Google do not rule out becoming partners with the center.

Maktar Sec adds:

“We must first master this technology, which not only helps to fight poverty, but also creates many jobs for young people on the continent and added value. The contribution to GDP is extremely important. »

Bridging the digital divide

Although African countries fear the financial benefits that AI can bring to their economies, such as Rwanda, which recently opened an CAI4R artificial intelligence center and developed its own Internet, most Africans, especially rural people, do not have access to the Internet due to lack of network or because she can’t afford a subscription. In the Congo, prices also rose significantly in 2021.

During the inauguration of ARCAI, ESA Executive Secretary Vira Songwe said:

“There is an urgent need for the government to provide high-speed, fast, affordable and reliable Internet to facilitate much-needed digital transformation. »

Julie Ovono, Executive Director of the NGO Without Borders, added:

“I share Vira Songwe’s concern: before we talk about artificial intelligence, we need to talk about Internet access, its cost. This is too much of the budget of the average African citizen. According to the latest Alliance for Affordable Internet statistics, Africans spend 5% of their monthly budget on 1 GB of Internet access, while the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) averages 2%. »

Invest more in AI research

During this inauguration, Julie Ovono thanked the Congolese Government for its cooperation in facilitating the establishment of this center, which it has. ” a crucial step to promote innovation and job creation in Africa “ but she added that:

“There are countries that have made research on artificial intelligence a priority for years and are investing billions of dollars. Let’s try to get out of the hype – we read a lot about connectivity, the Internet, digital and digital technology in Africa – and invest real resources in research, development, engineering, and math. »

With the establishment of this center, the Congo aims to become a major regional center for the development of new technologies.