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Africa At the Crossroads with Emerging Technologies


By Grégoire NDJAKA, Director General of the AUB

14th Ordinary Session of the AUB General Assembly, Abuja, 16-20 May, 2023.

A few weeks ago, a photo of Pope Francis made headlines globally. The image of the Pontiff dressed in XXL jacket, glasses in his eyes, a crucifix on his neck, and a skull cap tightly screwed on his head was shared by thousands of internet users, to the point of shocking some purists. (It's unusual to see a pope in a swag style, dressed like a rapper.)

Perfectly realistic, this photo was nevertheless created from scratch by Artificial Intelligence thanks to the MIDJOURNEY software accessible online via the Discord forum. This is the world we are navigating today. A world in which everything seems true, a priori, and yet!

Today, and increasingly, false information from conventional or unconventional sources is imposing itself in the public space because of the speed at which it’s spread. And nothing seems to stop it. Traditional verification tools have become obsolete. African broadcasters must now use more sophisticated means of verification to remain competitive in the content market. This is one of the major challenges facing broadcasting as a whole. How to extract the truth from the information that floods our smartphones, tablets and Thinkpad.

Artificial Intelligence that goes faster than its shadow.

Several years ago, we began the process of modernizing our media organizations. This is evidenced by the forums and symposia organized by the AUB on topics as meticulous as the transition from Analogue to Digital (Dakar, February 2017, Kigali, March 2018), the use of new media in newsrooms, media and diversity (Marrakesh, March 2019), (Dakar, May 2022), etc. These meetings allowed us to drive a dynamic of transformation and to align ourselves with the new technological situation in a rapidly changing world.

However, despite these achievements, we face significant challenges. Apparently, major technology companies such as Google or META (Facebook, Instagram) are investing in the Artificial Intelligence sector to offer fast and efficient content production services. What can an African national television channel do in the face of giants like Facebook or Twitter, with billions of subscribers able to circulate information in record time? As technology continues to develop rapidly, can African broadcasters satisfy their increasingly frivolous audience? That's the question!

In addition to the challenges of digitalization, which remains timid in some of our countries, competition imposed by Artificial Intelligence is now being added. Like it or not, AI is transforming the global media landscape. Can African broadcasters remain on the sidelines of this transformation? Or should we find ways to adapt to these changes and provide training and career transition opportunities for existing staff?

The General Assembly of the AUB to be held from 16 to 20 May 2023 in Abuja, Nigeria under the theme: "Impact and Challenges of African Broadcasting in the Digital Transformation of the World", thus gives us the opportunity to lead the reflection.

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