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Propelling Africa’s AI and data-driven research

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

The SFA Foundation, in collaboration with the African Open Science Platform (AOSP) hosted by the National Research Foundation (NRF), is pleased to host an AI & Data Science policy convening that will address the critical policy gaps in AI and Data Science within the context of global health.

Pretoria, South Africa – 28 June 2023

In Africa, while Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data science applications in research are rapidly advancing, significant gaps and challenges still exist. Limited access to high-quality data, inadequate infrastructure, policy ecosystem and the need for capacity building are some of the hurdles that the continent needs to overcome.

The Science for Africa Foundation (SFA Foundation), in collaboration with the African Open Science Platform (AOSP) hosted by the National Research Foundation (NRF), is pleased to host an AI & Data Science policy convening that will address the critical policy gaps in AI and Data Science within the context of global health. The convening, titled "Bridging Policy Gaps for AI and Data Science in Global Health: A Pan-African Perspective," will take place in Pretoria, South Africa, bringing together leading experts, policymakers, researchers, civil society, public entities, and stakeholders from the 16 SADC countries. The Pretoria event will be the first in a series of five workshops being held across the regions of Africa to map the country and regional policy gaps in AI and data science and identify the R&D goals of AI and opportunities for global health from an African perspective.


spear sfa convening

Delegates who attended the Science Policy Engagement for Africa (SPEAR) convening to discuss policy gaps in artificial intelligence and data science in global health from an African perspective in Pretoria, South Africa from 28-29 June 2023. PHOTO | Davies Mbela, Corporate and Science Communication Department, SFA Foundation

Dr Uzma Alam, Senior Programme Officer at the SFA Foundation and lead of Science Policy Engagement, said: “The convening aims to advance policy discussions ensuring that Africa sets its own standards for how it wants AI and data science governed. This includes ensuring the responsible and ethical use of AI and data science technologies for positive impact in Africa. It will serve as a catalyst for transformative research collaborations and generate knowledge that addresses Africa's most pressing health challenges.”

As the African continent faces numerous health challenges, leveraging AI and data sciences has the potential to revolutionise healthcare delivery including point-of-care, diagnosis and advancing research based on real-time data to improve patient outcomes and inform evidence-based decision-making. However, the development and implementation of effective policies in these areas remain critical.

The objectives of the convening are to:

  1. Build an understanding of the gaps in national, regional, and continental policies for the development, application, and governance of AI and Data Science, with a focus on genomics, epidemics and pandemics, clinical trials, and drug development
  2. Explore the benefits and challenges of utilising data science and AI in global health, including ethics and governance issues
  3. Provide a platform for sharing best practices, innovative approaches, and lessons learned in implementing data science and AI initiatives in global health
  4. Identify knowledge and research gaps and foster collaborations between academia, industry, and government

Dr Nokuthula Mchunu, Deputy Director of Strategic Partnerships at the African Open Science Platform, emphasised the significance of AI and data sciences in genomics research, stating, "The integration of AI and data science in genomics has the potential to unlock valuable insights into the genetic basis of diseases prevalent in Africa. By leveraging these technologies, we can accelerate the discovery of novel treatments and interventions, paving the way for more personalised and effective healthcare."

Dr Uzma Alam added by highlighting the role of AI and data science in pandemics and clinical trials, saying, "In the face of global health emergencies like pandemics, AI and data science have game-changing potential l in predicting outbreaks, tracking the spread of diseases, and supporting the response by harnessing these tools and fostering collaborative research efforts, we can enhance Africa's preparedness and response to future health crises. "

This convening also aims to foster collaborations and inform the development of robust policies that will propel Africa to the forefront of AI and data-driven research in global health.

About Science for Africa Foundation

The SFA Foundation is a pan-African, non-profit and public charity organisation that supports, strengthens, and promotes science and innovation in Africa. The SFA Foundation serves the African research ecosystem by funding excellent ideas in research and innovation; enabling interdisciplinary collaborations and building and reinforcing environments that are conducive for scientists to thrive and produce quality research that generates new, locally relevant knowledge.

Join us: I Twitter: @SciforAfrica I Instagram and LinkedIn: @Science for Africa Foundation

About the African Open Science Platform

The African Open Science Platform, hosted by the National Research Foundation, is a continental initiative that advocates for open science principles and practices across Africa. The platform aims to enhance the visibility and impact of African scientific research by promoting open access to data, publications, and collaboration. It facilitates the development of policies, infrastructure, and capacity to support open science on the continent.

For media inquiries on the convening, please contact:

SFA Foundation:

Davies Mbela I [email protected] I +254726604720

National Research Foundation

Bongani Nkosi I [email protected]  I 012 4814317