The state of AI in South Africa

A look at some of the most recent developments in artificial intelligence in South Africa, the key challenges facing the sector and the long-term prospects for growth.

As part of the ongoing process of rebuilding after decades of political unrest and economic uncertainty, companies across South Africa are engaged in the development of a nascent artificial intelligence (AI) sector. So, what have been some of the most recent developments in the AI sector in the country? What is the long-term potential for South Africa to emerge as a global centre of expertise in AI development?  What strengths and weaknesses does the country currently possess in this area? And how best might IT professionals contribute to the ongoing development of the country as a global hub? 

Growing sector

In recent years, a growing number of AI companies have emerged in South Africa - and there are signs that the country is gradually building up a solid base of expertise in the technology.  One interesting example is Cape Town-based AI Software and Solutions company Cortex Logic, which works across a range of industry sectors to augment and automate legacy processes, ultimately transforming them into intelligent systems via its AI Engine.  As Jacques Ludik, Founder and Managing Director at the company, and also President of the Machine Intelligence Institute of Africa (MIIA), explains, the Engine works by solving ‘strategic and operationally relevant problems by unlocking the value offered by the fourth industrial revolution and mobilizing data science, Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data and analytics'.

Another example is AI start-up DataProphet, a machine learning-based solution that analyses and interprets a company's data using a prescriptive AI system - and enables production teams to eliminate defects and scrap, and minimise downtime by prescribing the optimal parameter control limits and set points.  As Isaac Matsa, Country Sales Manager at DataProphet, explains, the company now boasts a team of 40, typically made up of postgraduates in mathematics, statistics, computer science or engineering.

"It's our vision to be the global leader in AI for manufacturing in Industry 4.0.," he says.

In pursuit of this aim, the company has recently raised funding from Knife Capital, giving it what Matsa describes as the ‘runway to expand operations internationally' and a significant boost to its ‘growth and expansion efforts into Europe, North America and South America'.

Other notable examples include Sandton-based outfit Xineoh, which has created a platform that is capable of predicting consumer behaviour with AI, and CLEVVA, a technology company specialising in decision navigation - helping to guide staff, customers and digital workers (or bots) through desired decision-making journeys so they ‘reach the right outcomes in a consistent, compliant and context-relevant way'.

To continue reading this article register now