How Kenya can harness AI revolution to drive productivity and innovation

Artificial Intelligence

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As the global economy undergoes a seismic transformation propelled by artificial intelligence (AI), the Kenyan business community and policymakers stand at a crossroads. How we navigate this paradigm shift will determine not only our industries' competitiveness but also our nation's prosperity.

At the heart of this transformative journey lies the recognition that the future of work is inexorably linked to the future of learning. From our educational institutions' classrooms to our corporations' boardrooms, the ability to adapt, innovate, and collaborate will be the currency of success in the AI-driven era.

For Kenya to harness the full potential of this digital revolution, we should prioritise AI policies and infrastructure and empowering on our youth through capacity building. As our youth prepare to enter the workforce, we must ensure that our education system evolves to meet the demands of the 21st century.

Beyond traditional academic subjects, there must be a concerted effort to integrate digital literacy, problem-solving skills, and critical thinking into the curriculum. By fostering a culture of lifelong learning from an early age, we can empower our youth to embrace change as an opportunity for growth rather than a barrier to success.

Simultaneously, we must address the urgent need to retrain and upskill our existing workforce. As automation reshapes job roles and industries, many workers face the prospect of displacement.

However, with the right support and resources, this transition can catalyse personal and professional growth. Investing in reskilling programmes and vocational training initiatives will mitigate the adverse effects of job displacement and unlock new opportunities for career advancement and economic empowerment.

Crucially, the learning agenda for the future must place a special emphasis on AI literacy. Contrary to popular belief, mastering AI does not necessarily entail becoming proficient in coding or technical skills. Instead, it requires a nuanced understanding of how AI systems operate, their capabilities, and their limitations.

In a world where AI increasingly permeates various facets of our lives, this literacy will be essential for individuals to make informed decisions, adapt to new technologies, and harness the potential of AI for innovation and growth.

Moreover, as we embrace the rise of AI, we must recognise the symbiotic relationship between humans and machines. Rather than viewing AI as a threat to employment, we must strive to integrate human strengths and capabilities into AI systems, fostering collaborative partnerships that drive productivity and innovation.

In doing so, we can leverage the unique qualities of humans and machines to achieve outcomes that surpass what either could accomplish alone.

For Kenya's business community, embracing the future of work entails more than just adapting to technological change. It requires a fundamental shift in mindset and approach.

And this also calls for a commitment to investing in our most valuable asset: our people. By prioritising learning and development initiatives, businesses can cultivate a skilled and adaptable workforce equipped to thrive in the digital age. Policymakers play a pivotal role in shaping the future of work in Kenya.

By implementing forward-thinking policies that support lifelong learning, skills development, and innovation, they can create an enabling environment where businesses and individuals can flourish.

This includes incentivising investment in AI research and development, fostering collaboration between industry and academia, and promoting an inclusive approach to digital transformation that leaves no one behind.

The future of work in Kenya holds immense promise but presents formidable challenges. By embracing the inseparable link between learning and work and by harnessing the transformative power of AI, we can chart a course towards a future where innovation thrives, opportunities abound, and all share prosperity.

The time to act is now. Let us seize this moment to shape a brighter tomorrow for future generations.

The writer is Associate Dean Research and Innovation, Strathmore University.

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