Eastern Africa AI Forum Kicks Off in Nairobi After Four-Year Hiatus

The inaugural Eastern Africa Regional Forum on Artificial Intelligence (EARFAI) commenced today in Nairobi, marking a significant milestone for AI discourse and development in the region. This three-day event, postponed for four years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has brought together stakeholders from across Eastern Africa and beyond to discuss and strategize on the future of AI in the region.

In his opening remarks, Kenyan Ambassador and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, Prof. Peter Ngure, lauded the efforts of the planning committee, which included representatives from UNESCO, its agencies, and various line ministries from Eastern African governments. Prof. Ngure emphasized the meticulous planning and collaboration that ensured the forum’s success. “We are ready. Welcome to Kenya,” he declared, highlighting the nation’s readiness to host such a pivotal event.

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Amb. Ngure expressed gratitude to the security team for their dedication to ensuring the safety of all participants and to the media for upholding freedom of expression during the event. He urged the Kenyan media to spotlight the EARFAI conference, emphasizing that this event is an opportunity for Africa to showcase its potential in AI to the world. “This time the story should be from Africa,” he said, calling for media coverage that would attract potential investors and technical support for AI initiatives in the region.

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The Ambassador also acknowledged the significant contributions from UNESCO headquarters, led by Victor Soo, the UNESCO East African Regional Office, and the relevant government ministries in Kenya. Their collective efforts were instrumental in bringing the conference to fruition. “Kenya operates at very high standards, and this is an opportunity to demonstrate the spirit of excellence in our country,” Prof. Ngure stated, expressing pride in Kenya’s role as the host nation.

Despite Kenya being the host, Amb. Ngure clarified that the EARFAI conference is a regional event, with 14 countries involved in the planning process. This inclusive approach underscores the collaborative spirit and shared commitment to advancing AI in Eastern Africa.

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As the forum progresses over the next three days, participants will engage in discussions, workshops, and presentations focused on AI development, ethical considerations, and potential applications in various sectors. The aim is to foster a robust AI ecosystem that can drive innovation, economic growth, and societal benefits across Eastern Africa.

The successful launch of the EARFAI conference signifies a new chapter for AI in the region, offering a platform for knowledge exchange, networking, and collaboration. With the spotlight now on Nairobi, Eastern Africa is poised to make significant strides in the AI landscape, leveraging the momentum generated by this landmark event.