UNESCO Launches the findings of the Artificial Intelligence Needs Assessment Survey in Africa

Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications continue to expand opportunities for humankind’s progress and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. UNESCO is working to harness these opportunities in its fields of competence and has been leading reflections around pressing concerns related to AI’s rapid development, from a Human Rights and ethics perspective. These range from AI’s role in the futures of education to the omnipresent challenges of disinformation and hate speech online.

In this context, UNESCO publishes the results of a survey intended to establish the priorities and capacity building needs of African countries concerning AI. The potential benefits and risks of the technology are not equally distributed across regions of the world. In 2019, as part of UNESCO’s reflections on AI in Africa, the publication Steering AI and Advanced ICTs for Knowledge Societies highlighted that there is a significant gap in terms of access to knowledge, data, education, training and human resources required for the development and use of AI on the continent.

The key findings of the survey in Africa are:

  • Policy initiatives for AI governance need strengthening
  • Legal and regulatory frameworks for AI governance need to be fostered
  • Need for enhancing capacities for AI Governance is widely recognized
  • AI priorities for countries in Africa are varied but offer an opportunity for cooperation. These priorities include the need for attention to:
    • Personal data protection and data governance
    • Leveraging AI for economic growth, development and digital transformation
    • Updating education, skills and training systems
    • Facilitating AI research and development
  • The survey calls for steps to address:
    • Ethical implications of AI systems:
    • Implications of AI for cultural diversity
    • Gender biases in the development and use of AI systems

The 32 Member States in Africa who responded to the survey have underlined the importance of UNESCO’s work concerning AI in the fields of education, sciences, culture and communication and information.  They requested UNESCO’s support for standard-setting, policy advise, capacity building, network development and for addressing gender equality related concerns in the development and use of AI.

As UNESCO develops its programmes to support the Member States to harness the potential of innovation and the digital transformation, it invites international, regional and national development partners to join hands with UNESCO in addressing the challenges and leveraging the opportunities for the development and use of AI in Africa as highlighted in this report.


To learn about UNESCO’s work on AI: https://en.unesco.org/artificial-intelligence