In a continent rapidly embracing digital transformation, Senegal's recent foray into artificial intelligence (AI) offers a glimpse into Africa's tech-driven future. Between June and July 2023, Senegal developed its National AI Strategy. This strategy, developed through extensive stakeholder consultations, aimed to position Senegal as an AI leader in West Africa.
A delegation composed of members from the Ministry of Communications, Telecommunications and Digital Economy (MCTEN) of Senegal, academia and the private sector embarked on a study tour to Rwanda, an African pioneer in digital innovation. This tour, a strategic move in operationalising Senegal’s National AI strategy, was not just about technology transfer but a deeper dive into the complexities of AI in an African context.
The initiative, led by Enabel as one of the implementing partners of the AU-EU D4D Hub Project, aimed to gather insights and best practices to operationalize Senegal's National AI Strategy.
A Deep Dive into Rwanda's Digital Landscape
The delegation's first encounter was with Rwanda's Ministry of ICT & Innovation (MINICT). They delved into Rwanda's comprehensive approach to digital transformation, spanning policies, strategies, and national programs. A significant focus was on how the Rwandan government had integrated AI into various sectors, enhancing public services and driving economic growth.
A key takeaway was the emphasis on emerging technologies such as AI and drones. Discussion centred around AI priorities, such as skills development, regional and computing centre projects, and a robust data strategy. Ethical considerations in AI were recognised as crucial.
The GIZ Digital Transformation Center: A Model for AI Implementation
On the second day, the Senegalese delegation visited the GIZ Digital Transformation Centre (DTC) in Kigali. This facility stands as a testament to the effective integration of AI in public sector services and startup ecosystems. The visit provided practical insights into how such centres could serve as catalysts for innovation in AI and other emerging technologies.
A significant portion of the visit focused on the FAIR Forward project, which advances AI in Rwanda by enhancing data access, technical skills, and ethical policy frameworks. The project highlights Rwanda’s commitment to a balanced approach in AI development, opting for flexible guidelines over rigid regulation to encourage innovation while maintaining ethical standards.
Integrating Lessons Learned into Senegal's AI Strategy
The study tour concluded with a roundtable discussion, where the delegation reflected on their observations and experiences. They identified key areas where Rwanda's practices could be adapted to the Senegalese context, particularly in terms of developing ethical and legal frameworks for AI, and enhancing public-private partnerships.
This study tour has not only provided practical insights but also underscored the importance of South-South cooperation in the digital age. As Senegal progresses in its AI journey, it continues to seek collaborations and learnings from its African counterparts, paving the way for a digitally empowered future.
The success of this study tour marks a significant milestone in Senegal's digital transformation journey, underscoring the country's commitment to leveraging AI for national development and setting a precedent for other African nations to follow.
The delegation’s four strong recommendations were:
- A single window for technical and financial partners for coherent and efficient implementation of emerging technology development policies, led by the MCTEN
- Handling the transversal nature of digital in all sectors for effective and efficient policy implementation
- Prioritizing skill enhancement actions for all socio-professional sector actors, as planned in AI/Data Strategies
- Creating a resource-sharing platform to boost initiatives with scalable access to resources.