“Dedicate Portion Of GDP For Investment In AI To Improve Health & Reduce Poverty” – Prof. Samuel KojoKwofie 

Prof. Samuel Kojo Kwofie, the Head of Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Ghana, has called on the government, corporate institutions and funding agencies to invest in artificial intelligence (AI) training,research and technology development to improve health and alleviate poverty. AI has the potential to reduce the gap in healthcare between urban and rural communities.

He made this appeal during a virtual session hosted under the auspices of the US Embassy Ghana, in collaboration with American Spaces and Mobile Web Ghana, on the topic, artificial Intelligence in health and poverty alleviation.

The event, moderated by Florence Tofa, Director at Mobile Web-Ghana, was streamed live on the US Embassy Ghana YouTube Channel, attracting a diverse audience eager to explore the future of AI in Africa.

Revolutionizing Healthcare with AI

Prof. Kwofie who is also a Bioinformatician at the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP), University of Ghana, began by demystifying AI, explaining its core concepts and burgeoning role in health.He discussed how the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals is underpinned by robust investment in AI. He highlighted key issues from his research and publications on AI and health to buttress these assertions.

The research group he leads has blended AI and big biomedical data to develop various open-source applications including TubPred and EBOLApred. EBOLApred and TubPred support the discovery of potential drugs for Ebola virus disease and cancer, respectively. Another significantinnovation discussed was BuDb, the first drug discovery database for Buruli ulcer. Together with his collaborators including Prof. Michael Wilson at Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research and others in Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Florida, they have successfully filed for patent application for Mycolactone as a potential COVID-19 drug. His team’s ongoing research also involves developingapplications for regenerative AI and diagnosis using medical images.

Prof. Samuel Kojo Kwofie, the mentor of the Team Deep Breath made up of biomedical engineering students whowon the best research paper presentation award at the 3rdNational Biomedical Engineering Conference, for the development of an AI application for the automated diagnostics of Covid-19, emphasizing the importance of AI in accurate diagnosis.

A Strategic Path Forward

Prof. Kwofie outlined a comprehensive roadmap for harnessing AI’s full potential in Africa. This includes supportive policies, robust infrastructure, and the establishment of AI ethics review committees. He reiterated the call for a National Data Centre and a West African network for data-driven AI applications, alongside the creation of a National AI Network (NAIN) with centres of excellence across various institutions.

To foster innovation, Prof. Samuel Kojo Kwofie called for the development of an AI technology ecosystem, comprising start-ups and incubators, and a National Centre for High Performance Computing (NCHPC). He also stressed the need for substantial investment from state, private, local, and international sources, alongside dedicated portions of GDP for AI research and development. Scholarships, training, and effective intellectual property and technology transfer mechanisms were also identified as crucial vehicle for success.

Addressing Challenges and Concerns

Prof. Samuel Kojo Kwofie candidly addressed the significant challenges facing AI adoption in Africa and its role in health. These include limited infrastructure, electricity, and internet connectivity, as well as issues with data availability, bias, quality, and governance in resource-constrained settings. He underscored the need for culturally and contextually adapted AI solutions, considering Africa’s diverse linguistic landscape and varying levels of digital illiteracy.

Ethical considerations were another focal point, with Prof. Kwofie calling for fairness and transparency in AI algorithms and cautioning against the generalization of applications without considering local contexts.

Economic Impact and Investment Potential

Highlighting the economic potential of AI, Prof. Kwofiereferenced projections by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), suggesting AI could contribute up to $1.2 trillion to Africa’s economy by 2030 constituting 5.6% increase in Africa’s GDP. Furthermore, Goldman Sachs forecasts global AI investment to approach $200 billion by 2025, underlining the immense financial opportunities in this sector with potential implications for poverty reduction.

Click to Watch the Talkhttps://www.youtube.com/live/vS5rDmqqVY8?si=aDG5F4vu2FtUhPVo

Profile of Prof. Samuel Kojo Kwofie

Prof. Samuel Kojo Kwofie is the Head of Department of Biomedical Engineering, School of Engineering Sciences, College of Basic and Applied Sciences, University of Ghana. Samuel was an Affiliate Assistant Professor at the Department of Medicine, Loyola University Medical Center, Chicago, USA. He was a Distinguished Visiting International Lecturer at the Department of Physics and Engineering Science, Coastal Carolina University (CCU), Conway, South Carolina, USA, and currently serves on the Board of the Engineering Program at CCU. He is a Life Member of Wolfson College and was a CAPREx Research Fellow at Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Cambridge. He is a Bioinformatician at the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP), University of Ghana.

Samuel has pioneered the use of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, bioinformatics and computational bioengineering to support novel drug discovery and diagnostics. 

Samuel takes keen interest in STEM, especially for young female students, and this has taken him on various outreaches to selected schools across the country. He has trained numerous students and researchers in AI and bioinformatics, and periodically organizes training workshops. 

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