…Adoption puts Nigeria at risks of increased fraud activities, disinformation
…Dismissal shuts country out of estimated $13 trn bounty by 2030
…Nigeria in dilemma, as indigenous AI developers already earn between N2.6m and N7.3m annually
By Prince Osuagwu, Hi-Tech Editor
A veteran journalist and Arts Editor of one of the prominent national dailies, Dr Mbonu, paid the price of a growing influence of Artificial intelligence, which is becoming the next big revolution in technology.
Mbonu got a distress call one Sunday morning in the last week of May 2023, from his brother-in-law that he was admitted in the hospital with a ruptured appendicitis and needed money for urgent operation.
In fact, a supposedly medical doctor who would do the surgery had to add his voice, warning that any delay could lead to the man’s death, considering the extent of rupture.
Mbonu did not have to doubt the information, knowing that his brother-in-law is not vain and not given to frivolous games. He parted with the much he could access from his account to an account provided by the supposedly doctor.
But what he did not know was that though the voice was unmistakably that of his brother-in-law, it was however not real. It was an AI-manipulated voice. He had been scammed.
Just a week after Mbonu’s encounter, another top Journalist, recounted same ordeal. This time, it was his sister crying that she needed money to carry out a blood transfusion in the hospital. He was about to send the money before his instinct prodded him to call his sister’s phone since the number used in calling him was not her’s. He summoned courage, and, alas! The sister was hale, hearty and never in the hospital.
He was alarmed and wondered how the two voices – that of his sister and the one from the hospital were the same. There are several AI-enabled software kits that can perfectly clone someone’s voice.
The AI trick is not a problem to only Nigeria and Africa. Across the world, the story is the same.
Recently, a media portal associated with the government in the southern city of Fuzhou, China, reported that a scammer used artificial intelligence to pose as a businessman’s trusted friend and convinced him to hand over millions of yuan approximating $609,000
The victim, surnamed Guo, received a video call last month from a person who looked and sounded like a close friend.
But the caller was actually a con artist who used a smart AI technology to change his face and voice, masquerading as Guo’s good friend.
Guo was persuaded to transfer 4.3 million yuan ($609,000) after the fraudster claimed another friend needed the money to come from a company bank account to pay the guarantee on a public tender.
The con artist asked for Guo’s personal bank account number and then claimed an equivalent sum had been wired to that account, sending him a screenshot of a fraudulent payment record.
Without checking whether he had received the money, Guo sent two payments from his company account totalling the amount requested.
The report quoted Guo as saying: “At the time, I verified the face and voice of the person video-calling me, so I let my guard”
He was only to realize his mistake after messaging the friend whose identity was stolen, and realized he had no knowledge of the transaction.
The rise of AI influence
The rise of AI and its revolutionary impact on businesses, societies, culture and people have led to several discussions at several fora across the world.
Big names in information technology, IT, like Founder of Tesla and owner of Twitter, Elon Musk; co-founder of Apple, Steve Wozniak and many others have all publicly expressed support for the call to pause on further development of Open Artificial intelligence, OpenAI, across the world, for six months, following profound risks it poses to the collective wellbeing of humans
Since its release last year, OpenAI’s ChatGPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) program has prompted rivals to accelerate developing similar large language models, and companies to integrate generative artificial intelligence, AI models into their products.
In April, the Microsoft-backed company unveiled the fourth iteration of ChatGPT, which has made users with its vast range of applications, engage users in human-like conversation, compose songs and summarise lengthy documents.
The fears for Nigeria
Some tech experts in Nigeria think Nigeria should also join in the discussion to halt or tame AI.
Responding to this development and how it relates to developing countries like Nigeria, a tech expert, Mr Andy Obuoforibo, Product Lead, at tech company, FounderFFA, said it is an important discussion to have in the country.
Obuoforibo, also said discussion on some of these advanced concepts will give the country an opportunity to catch up with the rest of the world noting that technology is an enabler.
He said: “For example, when people talk about American startups or unicorn, they also talk about Nigerian startup and unicorn. Nigeria should be part of the discussion because tech is an enabler. It could be an opportunity that will help us get even better.
“Also, it could be a threat that closes a door on us. For instance, we now have a company that produces AI-powered ‘Copilot’ which can write code like a software developer.
“So when you are looking at that, you have to think about the Nigerian growing market of software engineers who are working remotely from Nigeria to other countries. Their jobs could be in a bit of danger.”
However, he fears the existential threat that AI poses: “There’s an existential threat to the society with human competitive AI.
AI can take away jobs and we may just have fewer jobs for human beings. For instance, AI accountants can replace human accountants, and create a higher rate of unemployment.
“Again AI can flood information channels with propaganda and untruth, increasing misinformation and disinformation in the country. Recall the picture of Donald Trump getting arrested before he actually got arrested. Remember, also, alleged phone call between Labour Party Presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi and the founder of the Living Faith church, Bishop David Oyedepo where it was alleged that AI was used to change the voices and conversations. These are genuine worries” he added.
GITEX Africa debates AI
Everywhere, the touted transformational new tech has now become the focal point of worldwide debate. Last Friday, at the GITEX Africa 2023 in Morocco, experts from across the globe gathered to debate and advance issues around the technology
While dozens, including the heads of OpenAI and Google Deepmind, have backed statements warning about potential disaster scenarios around AI – even the extinction of humanity, others in the field have said AI fears are overblown.
One thing is certain: AI is on track to be the next big global technology shift. Based on available developments, there were even strong arguments that in Africa, it has the ability to transform the way businesses are run and societies function.
According to Mustapha Zaouini, the Chairman of AI in Africa, the continent is now exploring AI to solve pressing issues including poverty, unemployment, and inequality.
He said: “While Africa has unique challenges, such as disparity in internet access, it’s steadily embracing AI. We should be talking about Responsible Generative AI and the need to invest in infrastructure, education, and policy-making to fully harness AI. Ensuring equitable access to technology and bridging the digital divides, which are crucial steps to prepare for AI’s impact in Africa.”
Another expert, Simon See, the Global Head of Nvidia AI Technology Centre in Singapore, said: “With the right investments and policies, AI can help Africa to achieve its development goals and improve the lives of its people.
”In Africa, the demand for AI skills is expected to grow by 36 percent between 2020 and 2025.This growth is driven by the continent’s young population, as well as its investments in start-ups and innovation. The growth of AI is creating new jobs in Africa, as companies look to hire experts to help them develop and implement AI-powered products and services.”
A recent study by McKinsey Global Institute predicts that AI could add US$13 trillion to the global economy by 2030, while the number of AI-related jobs in Africa alone is expected to grow by 200 percent by 2025.
This means that countries that turn their back on AI would definitely be shut out of this bounty.
AI developer boom
Already, the growing band of indigenous Nigerian AI developers is becoming an evidence to how the technology and it’s far-reaching multi-sectoral impact is turbo-charging waves of innovation across industries; from education and agriculture, to transport, retail, energy, or logistics.
Meanwhile, an AI-powered health-tech solution BetaLife, which transforms African blood donations system, developed by a 21-year old Nigerian youth Mubarak Ayanniyi, epitomised this movement in the healthcare sector.
An award-winning Nigerian start-up, BetaLife is a cloud-based AI-powered platform which connects hospitals and blood banks using advanced algorithms, ensuring the efficient flow of lifesaving blood products to patients in need.
Ayanniyi said the greatest advantage of Betalife is its ability to analyse copious data via an AI-powered algorithm that accurately predicts when, where, and in what amounts blood donations are required.
The process helps to direct resources effectively and allocate donations appropriately, when needed. It also saves countless lives, ultimately.
He said: “BetaLife has revolutionised the way blood donations are managed in Africa. Instead of relying on manual processes, hospitals and blood banks are now using BetaLife to predict when and where blood donations are needed most. This has led to more efficient distribution of blood products, reducing waste and ensuring that those who need it most receive the lifesaving treatment they require.”
AI Developer job market
On the job market, there is a huge prospect. According to a study by Salaryexplora.com, an AI developer in Nigeria can earn as much as N7.3 million annually, depending on his or her experience.
The white paper says: “People working as Artificial Intelligence Developers in Nigeria typically earn between N403, 000 and N609, 000 monthly.
“This is the average salary, including housing, transport, and other benefits. The salaries vary based on experience, skills, gender, or location”.
These prospects, no doubt, present a complex position for government to take definite decision on AI adoption in the country.
Getting to know if there could be a regulatory solution, a top official of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC said: “Innovations in technology are difficult to regulate due to their dynamic nature. AI can be a monster, but one can never really say whether the disaster outweighs the benefits or vice versa. “For now, all we can advise is that individually, we should be careful, cautious and double-check the activities we engage in, and actions we take” he added.’