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Artificial Intelligence in use today, and AI applications

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It is almost innumerable to mention how and in what ways AI has impacted our lives: the way we work, the way we live, the way we experience the world and our interaction with each other, and the relationship we have with data. Virtually every sector of life has benefited from advances in AI technologies, from military (where worldwide annual military spending on Robotics are on the rise), to the government (where AI is being used in hospitals, to reduce staff load and predict patients’ needs).

It has helped us remove the four Ds – dirty, dull, difficult, dangerous – from our daily works. Humans are not always the best at tedious and repetitive tasks, whereas machines do not get tired, neither do they complain.

Any machine with the capability of understanding human speech, self driving vehicles (drones and autopilot cars), competing at the highest level in strategic game systems (such as Chess and Go), intelligent routine in content delivery network or military simulations, can be classified as artificial intelligence. 

Technology giants such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Baidu and Apple, have made and are still in the process of making major moves into the advancement of AI. Currently, we can see their mighty hands on several AI technologies around us.

SUGGESTED READING: What is Artificial Intelligence (AI) and How Does it Works

Online Automated Personal Assistants

Apple’s Siri is the friendly voice-activated computer that we interact with on a daily basis. It helps find information, manages our calendar, gives directions and so on. Microsoft’s Cogito, helps with behavioural adaptation and improving the emotional intelligence of customer support workers, as it is used in millions of voice calls which are sent in, daily. Others such as Google Now and Amazon’s Alexa could help us scour the web, shop, schedule appointments, set alarms etc.

Self-driving and Parking Vehicles

Tech companies such as Nvidia, use AI to give cars the power to see, think, and learn, so that they can navigate a nearly infinite range of possible driving scenarios. This AI-powered technology is already in use in cars made by Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Volvo and Tesla.

Smart Stores and Services

Whether we are trying to read our emails, get driving directions, get music or movie recommendations, AI is there to assist. Product recommendations can now be available in stores like Amazon and Jumia; music and movies recommendations in Spotify, Google Play and Netflix; Google Maps provides maps and directions as they can calculate traffic and construction in order to find the quickest route to your destination. 

AI also improves Social Media as it makes it easier for users to locate and communicate with friends and associates. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others use AI to enhance user experience, give some recommendations and even remove inappropriate or racist content.

AI in Healthcare

Our health sector has largely benefited from the AI technology available now and more are still in the works. AI is playing an imperative role in empowering machines to diagnose, analyze and predict the various types of diseases, monitor patientsʼ health conditions and help scientists to explore new drug discoveries. AI-based systems are already helping to prevent, fight, and lessen the burden of disease. For instance, AI gave the late theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking, a voice through a speech predictive system that helped him cope with a devastating neurological disease.

An AI program called Deep Patient, created by a group of researchers, was able to search through electronic health records of 700,000 patients, in order to identify completely new risk patterns for certain cancers, diabetes and mental disorders.

AI has taken surgery to a whole unprecedented level as an AI-powered robotic system was able to outperform human surgeons in a procedure on pigs. 

As a pandemic (COVID-19) grips our world, AI has done a commendable job of increasing social distancing, thereby, limiting the spread of the disease. Robots are now in use by Amazon and Walmart for sorting, shipping, packing and hauling products in their warehouses, which in turn, reduces the number of workers that have to physically come to work. 

AI in Finance and Economics

Banks and other financial institutions, no longer burden staff with tedious repetitive tasks as AI now rules the industry. AI has been employed to detect charges and claims, organize operations, invest in stocks and manage properties. Historically, in August 2001, robots beat humans in a simulated financial trading competition. 

Financial crimes and fraud have also reduced with the help of AI, just as it has been doing in Cyberworld to prevent cyber attacks such as Denial of Service (DoS), Malware and others, on organizations and individuals. This in turn, minimizes large-scale hacking attacks of different types that harm firms and create billions of dollars in business damage. It helps in improving the efficiency of the production system, through predictive maintenance. Robots have transformed a large part of the manufacturing economy, thereby, letting humans offload cognitive labour to computers.

AI in Journalism

Many news companies are using AI and still experimenting on Robot journalism to reduce costs. Microsoft and Google are funding some automated news projects. Automated writing systems generate financial, sports and election coverages. Data mining systems, alert reporters to potential news stories, while newsbots offer new ways for audiences to explore information.

SUGGESTED READING: 5 Areas Artificial Intelligence Is Set To Dominate

Fears and Challenges

Since AI was founded as an academic discipline in 1955, it has experienced years of several waves of optimism followed by disappointment and the loss of funding, followed by new approaches, success and renewal of funding. 

Compared with humans, existing AI lacks several features of human reasoning, empathy, and most notably, space, time, and physical interactions. Self-driving cars still collide with humans on the street!

As with the majority of the changes happening in our world, there will be positive and negative impacts as AI continues to shape the world we live in and the way we live. It is a well-known fact that AI is a disruptive technology, rebranding business, and bringing new approaches to decision making based on measurable outcomes. Everyone has their own opinions about the pros and cons of the tech. 

According to data from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), more than 1.7 million new industrial robots are expected to transform factories around the world by 2020. Estimates of the proportion of jobs likely to be automated by AI, vary wildly; which has raised the issue of potential mass unemployment as jobs like office support, customer interaction, care providers, builders, educators and so on, have almost been completely replaced by AI technology. In some service roles where someone is needed to offer a guideline or lesson, AI is being developed to be as real as humans to replace financial advisers, school teachers and fitness trainers.

Economic effects are just one part of the story. Several issues including the disturbing gender imbalance in the rapidly growing AI workforce, lethal autonomous weapons and threats to democratic decision making, still persist. It is also feared that at a point, machines will be more intelligent than humans, as artificial super intelligence would cause unthinkable changes in human civilization.

Conclusion

Advances in AI may come at great cost in job loss and disrupted lives, just as some experts have warned. On the other hand, it promises a world with rising human productivity and an all-round amazing quality of life. AI systems will take over life’s drudgery, generate enormous prosperity and opportunities for people, cure diseases in a way we have not seen before, and make us more efficient by eliminating human errors. These would be achievable, should AI be properly harnessed. 

Realizing this potential will require solving the challenges inherent in ensuring a fair and equitable transition into an AI-driven future. This can be achieved by making sure that those at risk of being excluded, equally benefit from the imminent domination of AI.  

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Africa Blockchain Institute

Africa Blockchain Institute Organized The First African Blockchain Summer Bootcamp For Teenagers In Ghana

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In the spirit of catching them young, the Africa Blockchain Institute organized the first-ever Blockchain Summer Bootcamp for teenagers (age range 13 to 19 years old). A successful Bootcamp, according to the participants’ testimonials and stakeholders, held at the OpenLabs, Ring Road, Accra Ghana, between Monday 2nd August, and Friday 6th August 2021. 

The teenagers applied from across Africa, and selected participants all converged at the OpenLabs, Ghana, for an intensive five days of learning, interacting, and implementing personal  Blockchain projects. The participants were divided into three significant tracks, thus; Blockchain Development, Blockchain for Creatives and Blockchain Entrepreneurship. 

Blockchain Summer Bootcamp for Teens by ABI
Blockchain Summer Bootcamp for Teens by Africa Blockchain Institute

Across these three tracks, the teenagers learnt introductory units to Blockchain Development for societal challenges, Blockchain evangelism, Non-Fungible Tokens, and how Cryptocurrency works. Another highlight of the program was the excursion to the Accra Digital Centre, where the Boot Campers were introduced to the tech ecosystem and feel of the Ghana Tech Lab and Accra Innovation Hub spaces. A visit was also made to the Museum of Science and Technology, and the teenagers got to understand the history of technology in Ghana. 

Worthy of mention was the panel session aimed at motivating the students to pursue a career in technology. While making his comments during the panel session, the founder of BankLess Africa, Mr. Muntala Mohammed Shaibu, urged the teenagers to stop seeing themselves as too young to experiment with new technologies. In her remarks, Ms. Elohor Thomas, CEO & Co-Founder of CodeLn, urged the teenagers to continue to explore their interest in technology and blockchain early.

Blockchain Summer Bootcamp for Teens by ABI
Panel Session, Blockchain Summer Bootcamp for Teens by ABI

The Bootcamp ended with personal project presentations from the Blockchain Development and the Blockchain for Creatives & Entrepreneurship tracks. Projects such as NFT blogposts, Blockchain product reviews and Blockchain for transport and logistics were presented. The best presentation won the OpenLabs scholarship for Robotics Course. Thanks to Dr Sujith Jayaprakash, the Director of OpenLabs, Ghana, for the offer of scholarship. In his closing remark, the Executive Director of the Africa Blockchain Institute, Mr. Kayode Babarinde, urged the teenagers to continue using the  skills and knowledge gained during Bootcamp to explore Blockchain-related solutions further. We also appreciate Mr. Ganzaro Omar, Chairman, AfroBlocks, for his supports, and fostering collaborations with the Ghanian Blockchain community.

The Africa Blockchain Institute will continue to hold future Blockchain Summer Bootcamp series in various African cities to drive Blockchain knowledge into innovators early enough. 

Oluwaseun David ADEPOJU

Head of Research,

Africa Blockchain Institute. 

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Artificial Intelligence

How AI Is Helping Fintechs Provide Intelligent And Better Financial Services

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AI fintech services

We live in an era of data. In today’s world, data is the new gold. The quality of services now significantly depends on how much insight can be extracted from data to help in the creation of the services. For fintech organizations, building services that harness the power of data and artificial intelligence has now become necessary to ensure that the services are tailored to meet the needs of customers. Artificial intelligence is now being used in various ways to help fintech companies provide intelligent and improved services. Some of the major areas of AI application in fintech are discussed in this article.

Risk Assessment

From insurance companies to banks and other fintech institutions, assessing credit worthiness and estimating the level of risk associated with every transaction has become very crucial. Now, many fintech companies employ the use of AI in determining the credit profiles of clients which helps to minimize financial losses when customers fail to repay loans or meet other financial commitments. 

Predicting and preventing fraudulent transactions is another challenge that fintechs are using AI to solve. Using machine learning algorithms, fintech organizations are able to build more accurate fraud detection mechanisms to curb the activities of scammers. The advantage of using machine learning for fraud detection in financial systems is that the machine learning model can learn from the financial data by itself. Thus, it is able to uncover hidden patterns and make a more robust prediction compared to traditional fraud detection algorithms. AI-based fraud detection algorithms can also be used to verify insurance claims and flag fraudulent ones. 

Churn Prediction

Customer churn is an important Key Performance Index (KPI) for any organisation. Preventing customer churn is aimpoaaaustomers and improve customer engagement. Many fintechs across the world now use AI to increase customer retention by understanding customer behaviour and making data-driven decisions to retain the audience of customers.

Intelligent Customer Service

Customer service is an aspect of fintech that has been significantly transformed by AI. The use of AI in this area has drastically reduced the need for human customer care representatives and the cost associated with employing these representatives. With AI, more customers can be attended to more efficiently via chatbots, virtual assistants etc. 

Chatbots are, particularly, one of the most common uses of AI in fintech customer service. Chatbots are sophisticated conversational AI applications that can engage with customers, address complaints and basically fill in the gap of a human employee. Chatbots have now become faster and easier means for customers to fix issues they have while using fintech services.

The Future of Fintech With AI

The use of AI in financial technology extends beyond risk assessment, churn prediction and intelligent customer service. Areas like payment processing and sentiment analysis are also being transformed by AI. Organizations like MasterCard and Visa have been able to improve the quality of their services by leveraging AI to achieve this. Personalized banking and financial services will define the future of financial technology. Better experiences will be developed for each customer in a unique and personalized manner. This may be impossible without AI. The future of fintech is geared towards smarter and more intelligent services, with AI steering the wheel to this future.

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The Growth of Africa’s Fintech Ecosystem In H1 2021

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Image Credit: Kabiru Yusuf

At the epicenter of Africa’s rapidly evolving tech ecosystem lies the fast growing fintech sector. A huge chunk of Africa’s growth in the tech startup scene can be credited to fintech startups. As the proliferation of fintech services grows deeper in this year 2021, fintechs have, once again, led the pace for the growth of Africa’s bubbling tech startup ecosystem. The first half of 2021 has seen multiple funding rounds and deals that have shaped the fintech sphere, some of which would be highlighted in this review of major fintech deals that were sealed in the first half of 2021.

Flutterwave

In the first quarter of 2021, Flutterwave, which recently joined the league of African unicorns, raised $170 million in a Series C funding round, valuing it at over $1 billion. The funding round which was led by Avenir Growth Capital and Tiger global sums up the total capital raised by Flutterwave to $225 million. Another major highlight from Flutterwave this year is its collaboration with PayPal to enable African merchants to connect with the over 377 million PayPal accounts worldwide, via the new Flutterwave pay with PayPal feature. 

Kuda

Fast rising digital bank, Kuda, is leading the penetration of innovative digital banking services in Africa. To deepen its growth and penetration, the company raised $25 million dollars earlier in March this year. The Series A round was led by Valar ventures, a VC firm co-founded by Peter Thiel. This funding round brings the company’s raised capital to a total of $36.6 million. In February 2021, Kuda also processed transactions worth $2.2 billion, helping it gain significant traction. At this pace, Kuda is definitely on its way to becoming a giant in Africa’s nascent digital banking sector.

Adumo

Adumo is the largest independent payment processor in South Africa. The Adumo group is comprised of companies including Humble, Innervation Pan African Payment Solutions and Innervation Rewards, Sureswipe and iKhokha. The company offers digital payment solutions to the businesses and merchants within Africa. In the first quarter of the year, Adumo raised $15 million from International Finance Corporation(IFC) to expand its provision of digital payment solutions across Africa, especially for small and medium-sized African businesses.

 

Cowrywise

Cowrywise is a Nigerian Fintech startup that offers digital wealth management and financial planning services. In January, the company raised  $3 million in a pre-Series A funding round that was led by Quona capital. The startup also recently obtained an SEC license approving its operation as a fund manager.

Mono

Three months after its acceptance into Y Combinator in February, Nigerian fintech startup Mono closed a $2 million investment to advance their mission of helping digital businesses in Africa access their customers’ financial and identity data. At the moment, Mono has raised a total of $2.625 million.

Bankly

In Nigeria where cash still remains unrivalled as king, Bankly is striving to digitise financial services and provide these financial services to the millions of underserved Africans. In March, a seed round led by Vault provided an investment of $2 million to Bankly towards achieving its goal of serving the unbanked. This investment will help Bankly expand its customer base and service offerings.

Appzone

Appzone is a fintech software provider that has carved a name for itself as one of the few African companies that build technology solutions to support the services of local fintech service providers. At the beginning of the second quarter (Q2), Appzone raised $10 million in a series A round led by CardinalStone, a Nigerian investment banking firm. This investment is intended to help Appzone become a pan-African fintech. 

Chipper Cash

Shortly after raising $30 million in November 2020, Chipper Cash raised an additional $100 million in a Series C round in May 2021. The round was led by SVB capital, a first time investor in African startups. Amazon boss Jeff Bezos also participated in the investment round. The Series C round caps the total funding of the three-year old company at $152.2 million. 

Stitch

Attempting to change the game play in the African API fintech sphere is South African fintech startup Stitch. This year, Stitch joins the line-up of African fintechs who are setting the tone of growth in the fintech ecosystem through progressive partnerships and closing multimillion dollar deals. Via a seed round, the company raised $4 million in the first quarter of the year, making it the current largest financing round by an API fintech startup in Africa. 

The Second Half of 2021(H2 2021) Appears To Be Even More Promising

Within the first six months of this year, African startups have raised over 1 billion dollars, setting a new record for startup financing in the continent. The growth of the fintech ecosystem has been astonishing so far. However, considering the tempo of funding in the first half of the year as well as the impending fintech deals and the various promising new fintech startups, the second half of the year may be even far better than the former. Regardless of how things turn out in this second half, the first half alone has provided enough reasons to be proud of the growth of the fintech ecosystem in Africa.

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