Wits leads ambitious partnership to drive AI in Africa

Invites research community to join consortium advancing AI use for Africa.

The AI Africa Consortium partners with Cirrus AI to bring large-scale AI infrastructure capacity and expertise to the African research community and industry.

Wits University today invited Africa’s research community to join its newly formed AI Africa Consortium which aims to develop a collaborative network focussed on the advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) and the application of AI in research and innovation. [Read or download the AI Africa Consortium brochure.]

Addressing the virtual opening of AI Expo Africa 2021, the largest business-focused AI event in Africa, Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Wits University, announced the ambitious partnership, saying AI and machine learning (ML) “offers huge opportunities for development and progress in Africa”.

“For us to fully participate in the 21st Century, we must use this ‘scientific renaissance’ to drive innovation and foster the growth of a strong scientific ecosystem. In so doing, we can play an active role in achieving true progress and help steer the socioeconomic trajectory of the African continent,” Vilakazi said.

It is for this reason that Wits University has partnered with Cirrus AI, a private sector-led initiative that aims to bring large-scale AI infrastructure capacity and world-class expertise to the doorstep of African universities, research institutions, researchers, and industry collaborators. Cirrus was announced at the AI Expo Africa in 2019.

“Cirrus is an initiative that aims to secure funding to establish among other things, the first AI supercomputer hub in Africa which will be located on Wits University’s campus. Cirrus has already formed partnerships and relationships with stakeholders in the AI space throughout the world,” explained Professor Barry Dwolatzky, Director of Innovation Strategy at Wits University. He is the project leader for the AI Africa Consortium.

“This partnership will promote and drive AI innovation and entrepreneurship through the infrastructure, engineering capacity, and learning programmes that will be set up. Student participation and training will be central in our efforts to develop AI skills in Africa,” he said.