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21 Jun, 2022
2 min time to read

Economist Impact presented a Google-sponsored report entitled "Pushing forward: the future of AI in the Middle East and North Africa". It forecasts the development of artificial intelligence (AI) over the next decade, with a particular focus on Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Qatar and Kuwait.

The report looks at AI investment and industry trends in tourism, transport, finance, retail, energy and government services.

The financial sector will account for almost 25% of all AI investment in the region, and the use of the technology in banking alone is expected to contribute up to 13.6% to the region's gross domestic product by 2030. It is estimated that AI will bring in $320 billion.

This is mainly due to cost savings from process automation, as well as improved products and services across all sectors in the region.

Governments in the MENA region are also introducing several projects to use AI to improve the "speed, accessibility and efficiency" of government services. Countries in the MENA region, especially the UAE and Saudi Arabia, are focusing on the application of AI at the city level. Dubai uses AI-powered virtual assistants in public services (Rashid and Mahbub) to respond to queries on municipal and transport issues.

In the MENA region, states are investing in developing AI capabilities. At the national level, Saudi Arabia has pledged $20 billion in public investment to create 300 start-ups by 2030. In the UAE, Careem has become the region's first tech unicorn, while others, such as STC Pay, have surpassed the $1 billion mark.

AI strategies focus on nurturing AI talent and creating an AI-friendly business environment. Saudi Arabia, for example, has set a key performance indicator for itself to make more than 40% of its workforce data and AI literate by incorporating AI into curricula developed by the Ministry of Education as well as private educational institutions.

However, currently no country has published a national ethics of AI / framework for responsible AI. Qatar mentions ethics in its AI strategy, and Egypt is also exploring the creation of a responsible AI charter. At the city level, only Dubai provides a toolkit on AI ethics, including principles and guidelines and a self-assessment form for developers wishing to ensure the safe and secure use of AI.