Morocco is making its first steps and establishing solid foundations with the vision to play a significant role in leading Artificial Intelligence development in North Africa and the Middle East where ABI Research estimates that 1,500 enterprises adopted Artificial Intelligence in 2018 and that this number is projected to rise to nearly 56,000 in 2022.

The Kingdom announced on Saturday, March 16th the launch of a $5.2 Million fund to promote research on Artificial Intelligence (AI). The Ministry of National Education, Vocational Training, Higher Education and Scientific Research, the Ministry of Industry, Investment, Trade, and Digital Economy, and the Moroccan Agency for Digital Development (ADD) have joined hands to launch this ambitious call for applications.

The deadline for submitting projects applications is May 15, 2019, to the National Center for Scientific and Technical Research (CNRST) and the primary selection criteria are the feasibility, relevance and socioeconomic impact of the projects.

With a rapidly growing and increasingly mature technology and innovation ecosystem, the Moroccan initiative comes as a commitment from the government to improve startups access to funds that have long been one of the major obstacles standing in between bright minds and their ambitious projects.

In October 2018, Morocco hosted the 7th edition of the prestigious Demo Africa event that featured a quality panel discussion on Artificial Intelligence. Two months later, the UNESCO and Mohamed VI University organized a Forum on Artificial Intelligence in Africa to explore opportunities and identify challenges.

Africa – Awareness on the Importance of Artificial Intelligence

Everybody agrees that Artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing economies worldwide as profoundly as the steam engine and electricity have done so in the past. Nonetheless, the vast majority of AI development initiatives, knowledge, experts, and funds are in North America, Asia, and Europe.

Surprisingly, Africa, compared to other regions, represents a better playground that could experience more significant benefits from Artificial Intelligence mainly because of less legacy technology systems, which often slow the rate of AI adoption in other continents.

There is a growing awareness in Africa on the importance of Artificial Intelligence and the endless opportunities it possesses the potential to enable. Public entities, governments, big corporations, small and medium-sized businesses, startups, and even solo entrepreneurs are showing interest in AI and would like to break into the field.

Nonetheless, there is a significant gap in moving from this awareness stage to “real-life” projects namely due to the lack of human resources with the right knowledge and expertise that can enable stakeholders mentioned above to embark into their AI journey with concrete efforts and hands-on implementations.

On a positive note, the African Artificial Intelligence’s ecosystem is gaining traction and is forecasted to grow more than 30 times over the next seven years to $46.6 billion. Hundreds of AI startups have been established mainly in South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya, and managed to raise $560 million in Venture Capital funding in 2017 representing 14 times the amount raised in 2012.

Last but not least, and in addition to Morocco’s efforts, Tunisian and Kenyan governments established specialized task forces to craft National Artificial Intelligence Strategies with the objective to lay down the foundations of what they need to do to build a strong base for sustainable AI developments.