[Interview] Roy Bannister and Nick Bradshaw, co-founders, AI Expo Africa, South Africa
26-06-2019 14:58:01 | by: Bob Koigi | hits: 6337 | Tags:

Roy Bannister and Nick Bradshaw are the co-founders of AI Expo Africa. Now in its second year, it seeks to promote and de-mystify Artificial Intelligence, AI, and its business applications across Africa.

The company has also been  leveraging new formats and platforms to communicate the business opportunity in the African AI & Data Science landscape for entrepreneurs, investors, business leaders and corporates.  

They spoke to African Business Communities about their unique approach and their mission of ensuring that as many African businesses as possible implement AI in their daily activities.

Introduce AI Media Africa and your role in it: 

Roy Bannister and Nick Bradshaw are co-founders of AI Expo Africa, Africa’s largest Artificial Intelligence business event.

We have a collective 40+ year track record of technology and journalistic reporting, publications, events and community building, and a passion to see AI used to benefit Africa. We believe the tech media industry is changing.

We are leveraging new formats and platforms to communicate the business opportunity in the African AI & Data Science landscape for entrepreneurs, investors, business leaders and corporates.

We make our content accessible across the whole of Africa by removing price and knowledge barriers to content, creating new event formats and sharing the fastest growing business opportunity across the continent with our community.

Who are your clients?

Our inaugural event last year, was the first time an AI expo and conference, focused on business and aimed at promoting and de-mystifying AI and its business applications, had been attempted in Africa.

Our vision was to put AI start-ups in the same room with platform providers, AI vendors and venture capital along with corporate, government and enterprise end-users.

The support was phenomenal, and we had global names in this space like Google, Intel, Microsoft, SAP, Multichoice and Vodacom among others exhibit their capabilities alongside start-ups and innovators.

 The end result was a hugely successful event, with 275 companies represented as delegates, sponsors and exhibitors from across all business and government sectors, mainly C-suite delegates and decision-makers looking to understand AI and how to begin implementing it into their businesses.”

What do you consider your greatest selling points?

 The fact that our Expo, and the other offerings we’re building - like Africa’s first and only AI and Data Science publication, called Synapse - are designed as inclusive platforms for the burgeoning pan-African AI community we’re mapping.

A community ultimately designed to harness AI and its potential for the greater economic and social benefit of Africa.

How has the market responded to your services?

Overwhelmingly positively. Support has been phenomenal, not only from supporters of our show, but also from the business and AI community, who are appreciative of our efforts to build an event where new business leads can be generated, networking facilitated, and decision-makers can find the talented AI vendors who can assist in developing solutions for their business challenges.

From a social aspect, for example, the publicity generated from exposure at our event by African innovators using AI to bring affordable and quality healthcare to remote and under-served regions, has echoed around the world.

What’s the biggest threat or challenge to your business?

The hype around AI has become a buzz-word, and many businesses and governments still need to understand AI and its potential at a basic level, and then find the innovators and vendors to help them implement AI.

So, possibly the biggest threat is the emergence of many pop-up events hyping AI, but simply not delivering the necessary access to the community, vendors and end-users that AI Expo does. This could result in over-saturation of a market eager to understand AI and get it working for them.

Tell us about the upcoming AI expo Africa and what it hopes to achieve?

We have a few exciting developments lined up, including an expanded show where all business and social sectors (from retail, banking, insurance, fintech, healtchare, smart-cities, local government, hospitality to name a few) will be able to find a greater understanding AI and meet vendors at the event that will be able to assist them in implementing AI in their businesses immediately.

Also on the cards is an initiative we have just launched, called Grand African AI Art Challenge, in conjunction with Zindi, a Data Science competition platform, and Cortex Ventures, Africa’s first AI-focused Venture Capital company.

The idea behind the challenge is to showcase the great abilities of African AI data scientists in a unique way, and create some publicity around this in a practical way:

 More info here: http://aiexpoafrica.com/2019/06/08/aiexpoafrica_art_competition/

Why does this expo matters to Africa and those looking at investing in the continent’s AI space?

 It matters because Africa is in a unique position to leap-frog some of the legacy issues of other countries globally in adopting AI, and can harness this to become a leader in the field, addressing issues like healthcare, employment, social issues and education in a unique manner.

 From an investment point of view, the opportunity exists for investors to access world-class talent focused uniquely on improving business and social issues.

What AI trends should Africa look out for?

AI in Healthcare has been a stand-out example, with the need for quality healthcare, that is affordable and easily accessible and innovations in agritech that ensure food security.

For instance, with the growth and access of mobile phones across the continent, apps that interface with patients in remote areas and provide ai-enabled diagnosis, seems like a great idea, right? We’ll these are only a few applications already in place: Retina AI is an African company using AI to scan patients retinas and provide world-class diagnosis of eye ailments.  There are numerous examples, and we expect more innovations in various fields.

What are the ambitions of the company going forward?

Building a community like this is not easy, especially in a field that is vastly unexplored. As we have found the community is massive across the continent, with hubs of innovation everywhere. We’re on a growth path, and will soon need to partner with a global event/media partner in this space to adequately cover the entire continent’s potential.

Artificial intelligence is experiencing tremendous growth across much of Africa.

What’s your contribution in this growth?

We’d like to think of ourselves merely as AI evangelists and facilitators bringing innovators together in a network to do business and grow their potential.

What is the latest news from AI Media Africa?

Watch this space - we’re working behind the scenes and we have some exciting developments lined up.




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Africa Business Communities is conducting a series of interviews with CEOs & Business Founders in Africa. Do you fit the profile? Great! Send an e-mail to bas@africabusinesscommunities.com