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Meet the 11 Africans named among the 100 most influential people in AI 2023

AI-in-Africa
  • Like the rest of the world, Africa has caught the AI bug.
  • Africa's influence in the AI landscape extends beyond its borders, with Africans emerging as key players on the global stage in the field of AI.
  • 11 Africans are among the 100 most influential people in AI.

When ChatGPT launched, it got the world’s attention. However, this chatbot was merely one example of the numerous signs that the fourth industrial revolution is currently in progress, heralding a wave of technological innovations poised to transform industries and economies worldwide.

Like the rest of the world, Africa has caught the AI bug. Its growth has been steadily gaining momentum in recent years, reflecting the continent's increasing interest in harnessing the potential of advanced technology.

What's particularly intriguing is that Africa's influence in the AI landscape extends beyond its borders, with Africans emerging as key players on the global stage in the field of AI.

Recently, TIME revealed its inaugural TIME100 AI, a new list highlighting the 100 most influential people in artificial intelligence. Impressively, this roster features 11 prominent Africans who are leading the charge in this groundbreaking technological realm.

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Here are the 11 Africans named among the 100 most influential people in AI

Inioluwa Deborah Raji is a 27-year-old Nigerian-Canadian computer scientist and activist.

She embarked on her path of AI activism while serving as a fellow at the Mozilla Foundation. Her focus has been on operationalizing ethical considerations in machine learning engineering practices, contributing to the development of ethical AI standards.

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Pelonomi Moiloa is the CEO and co-founder of Lelapa AI. The startup, whose name means home in the South African languages Sotho and Tswana—aims to improve the quality of life of Africans via AI.

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Kate Kallot is the CEO and founder of Amini, a Nairobi-based startup that uses satellite imaging and AI to collect and crunch environmental data to understand what’s happening at ground level, down to the square meter.

Linda Dounia is an artist and curator who explores the social construction of power and the cultural implications of how it is distributed. Her practice is a conversation between physical and digital mediums, by way of AI, and also incorporates image-making principles from her training as a designer.

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James Manyika is Google’s senior vice president of research, technology, and society. He has a PhD in AI from Oxford, served as a tech adviser in the Obama Administration, and was both a visiting scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Labs and a McKinsey consultant. Now, Manyika, 58, also serves as a vice chair of the National AI Advisory Committee, the federal panel tasked with strategizing AI regulation.

Anna Makanju is the vice president of global affairs at OpenAI, which has positioned itself as one of the industry’s foremost drivers of good-faith regulation. There’s a good chance that whatever AI regulations emerge across the world in the next few years, Anna Makanju will have left her fingerprints on them.

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Joy Buolamwini, a Ghanaian-American-Canadian computer scientist and digital activist, is the founder of the Algorithmic Justice League (AJL), an organisation that uses research and art to highlight the social impact and potential harms of AI.

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A year before ChatGPT’s blockbuster launch, Mathenge was part of the team of Kenyan workers who were drafted to help iron out its flaws. In May, Mathenge went public as one of 150 African AI workers who voted to establish the first African Content Moderators Union, a cross-company effort to win better working conditions for Big Tech workers in Kenya, a hub for outsourced work of this type.

Abeba Birhane is a cognitive scientist researching human behaviour, social systems, and responsible and ethical Artificial Intelligence (AI). She is a senior fellow in Trustworthy AI at Mozilla Foundation, and also an adjunct lecturer/assistant professor at the School of Computer Science and Statistics at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland.

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Timnit Gebru is the founder and executive director of Distributed AI Research Institute. She co-wrote one of the most influential AI ethics papers in recent memory, a journal article arguing that the biases so present in large language models were no accident—but rather the result of an intentional choice to prioritize speed over safety.

Shakir Mohamed is a research scientist at DeepMind in London. Having been with DeepMind for over 5 years, he has been part of its growth from a small startup to the world’s leading centre for AI and its applications.

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