After capturing the public’s imagination in 2022, generative Artificial Intelligence (gen AI) began to permeate the business landscape in 2023. 2024 remains a crucial year for the future of AI, with researchers and organizations pushing the boundaries by developing new algorithms and models to tackle increasingly complex tasks. A recent IBM report found that three out of four (75%) global CEOs believe that the organization with the most advanced gen AI will have the ultimate advantage. Moreover, 43% of CEOs said they will use gen AI to inform strategic decisions.

Companies worldwide are recognizing the benefits of gen AI and its crucial role in their success. This is driving a new era of work, productivity and opportunities across industries. AI is projected to enhance human productivity and unlock an astounding $16 trillion in value by 2030. In perspective, the fifth largest economy by gross domestic product (GDP) in 2023 was about $3.7 trillion. When combined with automation technology, gen AI can help clients improve interactions with customers and partners, as well as boost operational efficiency and productivity.

Slow but steady AI adoption in Africa

This is not just a global phenomenon; half of the African CEOs surveyed in our IBM report expect to realise significant value from advanced AI and analytics. However, adopting AI is not without its obstacles. Many businesses on the continent and beyond are grappling with a multitude of challenges. Globally, 82% of IT professionals say IT complexity is impeding success in deploying AI, while 55% of business leaders lack key information regarding their technology spending decisions. In Africa, many organizations face barriers such as costs, market and regulatory factors, workforce readiness, infrastructure, skills gap, ethics and governance.

Become an AI-first organization to stay ahead

To overcome these challenges, organizations must move to an AI-first approach, where AI is integrated into their business strategy across the lifecycle. Being AI-first enables businesses to be value-creators rather than solely value users. Companies that will lead their respective industries for the next decade or two will be the ones that decide to be AI-first. That is why we launched watsonx in 2023 to develop trusted AI and drive innovation for organizations in every sector or industry. Building an open-source AI community is a core part of our AI strategy. At our recent THINK conference, we further enhanced watsonx’s data and automation capabilities to make it more open, cost-effective, and flexible for businesses. We achieved this by releasing a family of IBM Granite code models to the open-source community. We launched InstructLab with Red Hat, to enhance large language models and open the doors for those with minimal machine learning experience to contribute. We also announced IBM Concert that uses AI-powered automation to help businesses to discover gaps, prioritize insights, reduce complexity and streamline operations for more innovation and cost-effectiveness.

Putting IBM AI solutions and watsonx to work across industries

Since the launch of watsonx, we have over 700 client pilots and manage 1,200+ AI models globally. watsonx is now available on AWS Marketplace in 92 countries, including 18 in Africa. For example, in Kenya, we use watsonx’s geospatial model with NASA’s satellite data to support climate resilience and track tree-planting activities for the government’s goal of 15 billion trees by 2032. Partnering with Neo Stream Technologies in Kenya, we deployed IBM Instana with M-GAS, enhancing real-time monitoring and business application tracking.

In the Middle East, we collaborated with the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority to launch ALLaM, an open-source Arabic Large Language Model on watsonx, enabling Arabic gen AI models. Globally, we worked with Transport for London to deploy IBM Maximo, managing maintenance for the London Underground and supporting numerous contractors.

Organizations worldwide leverage IBM’s AI solutions to address challenges in banking, financial services, energy, telecommunications, climate change, sustainability, customer services, and entertainment.

The right partnerships and governance are key

The adoption of gen AI is accelerating across enterprises as organizations aim to gain a competitive edge and unlock new opportunities. To achieve this, organizations need to have a robust AI strategy and the right level of investment. They also need to establish and implement clear and consistent standards or guardrails concerning the utilisation of AI across all strategic focus areas. Most importantly, they need the right partner who understands the overall business objective and how to overcome barriers preventing AI adoption. Such collaborative partnerships are critical for developing robust data and AI

strategies, filling the skills gaps, and guiding the organizational change necessary for successful AI adoption.