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Google’s first African Artificial Intelligence centre to open in Ghana

Tech giants are pouring money into artificial intelligence. Baidu and Google spent between $20 and $30 billion on AI in 2016 alone, according to research from McKinsey. In Google’s case, a portion of that investment went to AI centres in China and France, and the Mountain View company shows no signs of slowing down. Today, Google announced its next AI research centre will be in Accra, Ghana.

“In recent years, we’ve … witnessed an increasing interest in machine learning research across the continent,” senior Google AI fellow Jeff Dean and staff research scientist Moustapha Cisse wrote in a blog post. “Events like Data Science Africa 2017 in Tanzania, the 2017 Deep Learning Indaba event in South Africa, and follow-on IndabaX events in 2018 in multiple countries have shown an exciting and continuing growth of the computer science research community in Africa.”

Google said that employees in the new AI centre, which will open later this year, will work closely with local universities, other research centres, and policymakers on the potential uses of AI in Africa. This is Google’s first centre devoted solely to AI research in Africa and, as far as we can tell, the first from any tech giant (beating Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft to the punch).

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“[W]e’re excited to combine our research interests in AI and machine learning and our experience in Africa to push the boundaries of AI while solving challenges in areas such as healthcare, agriculture, and education,” Cisse and Dean wrote.

The Google AI Center in Accra expands on Google’s efforts in the region. The company said 10 million Africans have completed its digital skills training program, and Launchpad Accelerator Africa, its tech startup incubator, is actively supporting 100,000 developers across 60 companies.

Google isn’t the only one investing in AI programs abroad. Early in 2018, Samsung announced the opening of new research centres in Toronto; Moscow; and Cambridge, England. E-commerce company Etsy said it would open AI R&D offices in Toronto by the end of this year. And in January, Google and Facebook pledged to expand their AI investment in France.