A former Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has advised African and relevant institutions to focus on the implementation of policies that will put the continent at the heart of rapid technological changes that are sweeping the world.
She said such changes should be embraced and not resisted because science and technology is a game changer that can help Africa overcome and thrive, despite poverty and other challenges facing the continent.
The former minister spoke at the convocation ceremony of the African University of Science and Technology, Abuja, where the university graduated 434 Masters and 31 PhD students in 12 years.
She said: “Artificial intelligence and other forms of technological advances will underpin the future of the world’s development at a time of macroeconomic uncertainties, trade wars and geopolitical tensions and, most of all, rapid technological change.
“This is something that we cannot stop. These changes are happening rapidly and will continue to happen.”
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, who is also the Chair of the AUST board, urged the audience, including the graduates, to see themselves as part of the vanguard for Africa’s technological development.
“There is a great push, globally, to see what AI and robotics can do to help manage the world. We can’t stop it; it is going to infuse everything we do. We’re going to have driverless cars, whether we like it or not; we’re going to have robots trying to do a lot of the work that people normally would do and it will come down to us.
“But we need not be afraid of the arrival of technological change. I believe strongly that Africa can use it to thrive and prosper and that we should be at the vanguard of using AI to solve some of those logistical, infrastructural and skills problems which we’ve not been able to solve,” she said.
The convocation guest speaker, Dr Acha Leke, reminded the graduates of the enormity of the challenges confronting Africa.
He urged them to accept the historic challenge of deploying their knowledge and skills to the continent’s benefit.
“Africa is on the move indeed, but we still have a long way to go. About 600 million Africans still live in the dark today – with no access to electricity. We have huge infrastructure deficits which will require us to double our investments to close the gap.