Why We Launched The Utiva AI School

Utiva
6 min readFeb 27, 2020

My thoughts, on my bed with my little notepad!

The horse is prepared for the day of battle but victory is of the Lord. I was meditating on my bed after a long sleep and this same instruction came to me. Isn’t that what the Holy Book says?

By the way, I think the work of an educator is the work of God. Unless you disagree, training others is divine.

But the biggest question on my mind, at least as I meditated, was how do we win as a continent if we play the hide and seek game? We are so far behind on the curve of economic leadership. Industry 1.0 until 3.0! We didn’t win in any of these play. Can we give ourselves another chance? Can this be our chance?

And then I took a looked at the Fourth Industrial Revolution which is being powered by Artificial Intelligence. By the way, if you lost me, The Fourth Industrial Revolution is a smart way to say ‘can we blur the boundaries between the physical, digital, and biological worlds. It is all about advances in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, genetic engineering, quantum computing, and other technologies.

Can Africa lead here? That was my biggest morning mare!

As I consoled myself, I wanted to put some figures on my self-esteem. And I realized that current spending on AI is at about $29.8B! Guess what? This spending is estimated to reach $46.0B by the end of 2020!

But the truth is that this number didn't just hit the 50 billion dollar mark overnight. It’s a rolling wave. Worldwide spending on artificial intelligence and cognitive systems rose up 768% from 2016.

Where is AFRICA in this whole thing? At first, I thought Africa is playing the ‘no-where game’. I guess you also thought same right? Well, I was wrong!

Spending on artificial intelligence (AI) systems in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) has been on the rise of recent. Interestingly, there is a strong indication that the growth trajectory will increase as businesses in the MEA region invest aggressively on AI continues to invest in projects that utilize the capabilities of AI software and platforms. Spending on AI systems in MEA is expected to reach $374.2 million in 2020. The MEA also has come a long way from $261.8 million in 2018 and about $320 million in 2019. This is according to International Data Corporation (IDC).

Are you a black African? I know what you are thinking!

Well, from this MEA figure, South Africa accounts for about 20% of the total spending! While I couldn’t put a clear figure behind how much Nigeria’s spent in the space, there are a few companies out there experimenting and championing the AI game in Nigeria. Startups are also paving a strong wave in the AI spending, especially in the financial sector.

Nigerian mobile-lending platform Carbon uses machine learning to evaluate credit applications, South African fashion retailers rely on algorithms to predict the next season’s top sellers and Kenyan ride-hailing app Little has implemented AI to assess driver performance.

So the biggest question on my mind was how to accelerate the process for the Nigerian ecosystem. I came up with my theory of acceleration:

  1. Enterprise investment in AI is easy if business leaders understand the value of technology to daily business processes and challenges
  2. AI must be more than a concept; it must be able to change the bottom line
  3. It is not enough to ship AI solutions to Africa; we must build technology with our Data and our biases.

The easiest way to achieve these 3 different pieces is to flood the ecosystem wit business leaders that understand the dynamics of AI and are able to plug the use to their daily business challenges. That is the easiest way to advocate for more investment in that space.

And then I got out of bed and jumped on a call to consult my friend and colleague, Opeyemi Akinwoleola who is an industry leader in that space. Let me paraphrase his thoughts:

Opeyemi doing his magic

We need to help business leaders to learn fast so they can understand the language of engineers and also be able to translate business requirements within the engineering context!

We both spent more than 2 months together drafting, debating, unveiling and designing a learning program that will work in the Nigeria(and Africa) context! We wanted to help leaders understand more about how to leverage Artificial Intelligence to advance their business.

The highlight of the learning program is that it helps you develop necessary and beginner’s technical knowledge of machine learning and the business applications of artificial intelligence across industries.

My colleague, Uche Edwin who currently leads the AI school in Nigeria spent weeks validating various hypothesis and aligning different interests. While we found out that there were not too many players on the learning side of things in this part of the world, I was impressed by the number of technology that is being deployed in that space. Hence, Uche and I had to figure out a way to create business cases from the project being implemented by corporates in this space. We also found out that nothing is set out already and the cost of experimentation in AI is almost commensurate to the value that early adopters get.

What I found fascinating throughout the entire process was that there were not too many players in the learning side of things

We also designed the training to be experiential so that with the use of practical case studies leaders can move from thoughts to actions. What type of questions will propel designs and how do you identify what AI can do and what you shouldn’t spend time on. Ultimately, learning to formulate AI Strategy from real capstone project which can be integrated into real businesses were some great elements of the design.

We also created a special AI Business Leaders Scholarship to provide quick support to emerging business leaders in that space and some superstars came out shinning.

Want to learn more about the Utiva AI School? Here is a good place to start

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Utiva

We are enthusiastic about the ‘Future of Work’ and Industry 4.0. We are developing top talents for fast-rising companies. We are a technology company!