Viewpoint

June 12, 2024

Artificial Intelligence and the African Continent: A case for the indigenous intelligence

Artificial Intelligence and the African Continent: A case for the indigenous intelligence

Dr. Ganiu Abisoye Bamgbose (Dr. GAB)

By Ganiu Bamgbose

Despite the incontrovertible significance of artificial intelligence (AI) in the scheme of affairs all around the globe, one is made to wonder if the ideology of subjugation is not the reality of Africa in the AI equation. While I do not offer my position with a tone of finality, I plead with the community of African intelligentsia to consider this stance in deconstructing the AI framework as some sort of mental colonisation for Africa and Africans. AI is good. And of course this is not open to debate or contest. But where does Africa come in, in the scheme? Purely the beneficiaries. Peradventure there are some of us who are sound enough to demystify the coding and the codes, the scheme also makes provision for hijacking them. It has never been for or about Africa. Like the mirrors shown to our great grandfathers that made them negotiate our future, gave out our oracles, sculptures and artefacts, and sold us into slavery, it is now a phase of intellectual sabotage. Before Africa ever understands the gimmicks and think of making anything of the situation, we have negotiated much more than our gain.

While AI is already producing robots and cars that control themselves for its designers, the major place of Africa at the moment will be to count the first set of Africans to buy the car. Of course to be bought by these giants in Africa mainly at the expense of the treasuries of the different countries. No country awaits the release of a new brand of iPhone like Nigeria. I am not sure the citizens of the producing countries use the phones as much as my compatriots do. I do not mean to posit that these technological affordances come at no gain for Africa and Africans. But it is a truth that you cannot be a developmental consideration for people to whom you make a market.

The producers move to the next stage before the mystery is unravelled and before the boundaries of use are understood. He who pays the piper calls the tune. I was saddened to read at least five AI-generated academic proposals from some students who would later confess they had no single sentence in the whole document. I have reviewed and edited scholarly works that revealed unpardonable use of AI to generate contents for academic writing. We had thought plagiarism involving the use of expressions from other people’s works was a challenge until we got to this age of generating a complete abstract for conference participation from AI. And we will say it makes life easy. Why stress if AI will help? Let it do the thinking and writing for you. So now let us ask: what is ours to take from AI if not mental colonisation and intellectual degradation?

Even in academia, from Scopus to the rest, Africa must seek validation for what is good. As we are rounding off with our onshore-offshore debate, we now have to ask again if that journal is Scopus-indexed. Isn’t it worrisome that we still, as Africans, cannot be the judge for what we find good in our discussion of knowledge? What do we expect when the scoresheet for our productivity has to be produced by those who need us to be consistently under them?

It is my submission in this piece, however myopic it is considered, that what will liberate Africa will not come from anywhere else but Africa. Every good thing we are offered will be to the extent that we remain a market for the ingenuity of these value-producing continents. One cannot exactly think of what is in China that is missing on most African soils except the readiness to tap into our indigenous intelligence. The RHS Cultural Framework (2005) explains Indigenous intelligence as the wise and conscientious embodiment of exemplary knowledge and the use of this knowledge in a good, beneficial and meaningful way. The document states further that within whatever worldview one is operating, intelligence has to do with more than the acquisition of knowledge and the mental manipulation of thoughts and ideas; intelligence has to do with activating knowledge into something useable within a system that is charged with meaning.
The Yoruba Ifa corpus has computational values that can manifest the Africa-specific AI which will be geared towards the sincere development of the Nigeria. The Ifa corpus is one of many such forms of indigenous intelligence that can be leveraged for genuine development in Africa.

If we cannot do it now, at least we can put it in writing as literature for those who will be sufficiently provoked to rise to the call of African liberation.

Dr. Bamgbose (DR. GAB) writes from the Department of English, Lagos State University, LASU.

Vanguard News