Towards a sustainable development-oriented and ethical use of artificial intelligence

7-9 September 2022
Windhoek, Namibia
Concept note
Programme of the event
Information note for Delegates (SARFAI 2022)

The advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is fast transforming the world and the future of humanity. Incontestably, the rapid technological advancements in AI, as well as other emerging and converging technologies, such as nanotechnology, modern biotechnology, and information technology are key drivers of this 4th Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0).

Recognizing the important role that AI can play for development in Africa and notably its impact on UNESCO’s fields of competence, UNESCO organized the first UNESCO Forum on Artificial Intelligence in Africa in Benguérir (Morocco), in December 2018. The Benguérir Outcome Statement called for the organization of sub-regional Forums in Africa to facilitate exchanges, and the elaboration of strategic frameworks and action plans in line with unique sub-regional and national contexts, in view of an AI Strategy for Africa. Other events on AI were subsequently organized by UNESCO.

In November 2021, during the 41st session of the General Conference of UNESCO, Member States unanimously adopted the first-ever Global Recommendation on the Ethics of AI. Resulting from a two-year multi-stakeholder consultation process, this first global normative instrument provides a comprehensive basis to make AI systems work for the good of humanity.

It is in this context that UNESCO, in collaboration with the Government of Namibia, is organizing the UNESCO - Southern Africa sub-Regional Forum on Artificial Intelligence, under the theme "Towards a sustainable development-oriented and ethical use of artificial intelligence’’ in Windhoek, Namibia, 7-9 September 2022.

The Forum which will be held in English and French, will take place in a hybrid format (both in presential and online) and will be articulated into three key sessions: Technical Segment (Day 1 & 2); Ministerial Segment (Day 3); Partnerships Session (Day 3). Side events (AI market, exhibits, cultural event, etc.) will also be organized during this Forum.

Nearly 400 participants in presential are expected to attend this Forum, including nine ministers responsible for AI in the sub-region, high-level technical experts from member states, the SADC Secretariat, AU representatives, representatives of United Nations agencies and other international organizations, non-governmental organizations, leaders of the AI industry, academic experts, policymakers and any other relevant stakeholders.

The Forum aims to provide a platform for Member States, international organizations, civil society, academia, the AI industry and other stakeholders to:

  1. Convene a multistakeholder platform to discuss the different dimensions of the applications of AI, its challenges and opportunities and share best practices in Southern Africa;
  2. Unpack the profound complexity of the use of AI in Southern Africa in critical areas such as data governance and protection of fundamental freedom, education, science and engineering, climate change, media and cultural industries;
  3. Discuss the effective implementation of the UNESCO Recommendation on Ethics of AI in Southern Africa;
  4. Reflect on ways to strengthen scientific capacity at all levels of the education system to address the lack of a critical mass of experts in AI in Southern Africa;
  5. Discuss a streamlined Southern Africa sub-regional approach to AI policies, strategies and capacity building initiatives;
  6. Produce concrete recommendations for the development of a comprehensive action plan for the development of AI in Southern Africa that could maximize the use of AI in the attainment of the SDGs and Agenda 2063.

For three days, Forum participants will share their ideas and experiences on:

  • Exploring the AI Landscape in Southern Africa;
  • AI Governance and Standard-Setting;
  • Capacity Building for AI Development and Application;
  • The principle of Inclusion and Equality in the development and use of AI;
  • Strategic Partnerships for AI in Southern Africa.

An outcome document with an official Statement and endorsed actionable recommendations for the development and ethical use of AI in Southern Africa will be agreed upon by the Ministerial session.

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