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Artificial intelligence, 235 Services, Nigeria and ‘Japada’

There are two categories of Nigerians in the Diaspora. Those who love Nigeria despite her inadequacies and want to return home to make meaningful contributions to her advancement. The second group are those who are bitter and see no promising future for the country. I have observed both groups in my engagement with Nigerians abroad. After years of living abroad, those who want to ‘Japada’ have identified something more significant than them. They want to import their experiences to uplift lives and the society they were raised in with their capital and skills.

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This is the set of people I consider as the country’s natural resources that would support Nigeria in transforming from a perpetual third-world country into a developed economy. They are the intelligence we have exported, and we now need to repatriate and tap from their acquired expertise. These groups of people have spent years abroad. They have the intellectual capacity to contribute to our economy beyond the usual personal remittance, which was quoted as USD 20.33 billion in 2022. This group wants to ‘Japada’ not for any reason but to fulfil a call to nation-building and personal satisfaction. The ‘Japa’ group are either those who recently relocated due to the country and economic risks or those who, for one reason or another, cannot tolerate how things are done and see no future for their family in our country. Some members of this group will one day realise the need to return to where they belong and make meaningful impacts. Others will remain in the denial zone, castrating their country of origin in exchange for a good standard of living. I can liken the former to Artificial Intelligence (the AI team) that is changing the landscapes of lives in all areas. The latter is what I will term business as usual (BAU team) with today’s mindset that sees problems and craves survival only. However, no one should burn their bridges as things could change positively, as we hope for the African continent.

Last week, I was at a three-day Artificial Intelligence conference in Milton Keynes, United Kingdom, and confirmed my earlier assertions. I met with Nigerians doing well in their careers as C-level officers attending the conference. There is a massive gulf of difference between the AI and BAU teams. The significant difference is that the AI team are people who have met the basic needs, acquired knowledge, and are interested in replicating what they see working abroad back home for the best interests of the black race. They have offered something for their new communities and keep looking for an enabling environment to invest, contribute and advance their country of origin. They are thinking of ‘Japada’ not to run away from a challenging environment but to contribute to making their people at home better for their experience. I am sure these people are of interest to Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa and her team at the Nigerian Diaspora Commission. I can attest to her drive and vision to make sure Nigeria’s huge human capital abroad returns home to be part of our growth and development.

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Back to the conference, the main organiser is an AI incubating company led by a Nigerian living in the United Kingdom for twenty-three years. Dotun Adeoye and his team delivered a worthwhile adventure at the beautiful La Tour Hotels in Milton Keynes, covering how AI could be utilised now and in the subsequent centuries to maximise productivity. The keynote speaker was Segun Zacchaeus, a Partner and West Africa Lead, Strategy at PWC, Nigeria. He delivered a brief exhortation on AI And Business Transformation in Africa by providing a comprehensive overview of AI’s current and prospects in Africa. Other conference speakers include Thomas Weller, a financial services data scientist based in Germany; Raghu Bala, an AI, Blockchain, DeFi expert and educator who travelled from the United States; Okechi Awujo, C-Level AI & technology leader, and the convener, Dotun Adeoye, an AI transformation & ethics specialist.

Nigeria’s best resources are not in the oil field but in the mind field of her people both at home and in the diaspora

The conference speakers exposed the participants to various insights ranging from the AI transformation phase and its use cases in finance, healthcare and telecommunications sectors, AI deployment stages, ethical considerations, risk management and actionable AI strategy for attendee’s organisations, of which Interswitch Nigeria Limited was among.

Raghu Bala’s presentation was an eye-opener because I feel connected to the domain he chose for this analysis. He took the participants through different use cases of AI in finance and accounting. Dotun makes a professional presentation on the use cases for AI in customer services using Nigeria-related examples. I wonder how someone who had left the shore of Nigeria for twenty-three years could still relate to the business and political twist of fate in Nigeria and strongly desire to solve problems for Nigeria and Nigerians.

The second day of the conference was full of panellist discussions in three sessions, networking, and questions from the participants. I encountered participants from other African and European countries in the networking module. Nigerians are more numerous, and all the Nigerians present were delighted and looking forward to doing exploits for businesses in Nigeria using their knowledge in different walks of life on the platform of adopting Artificial Intelligence.

The third and final day was practical. We visited the 235 Services office and were exposed to the use cases built to solve organisational problems. I see improved productivity and efficiency with adopting AI for organisations that did the right scoping and adopted the appropriate transformation strategies led by proven experts.

I managed to chat with the CEO of 235 Services about his objectives for the conference and why he focused on Africa as a continent. Dotun, unlike people in the BAU team, is seeing opportunities in Nigeria and Africa. He recently visited Ghana and Cape Verde to scope and explore ways to maximise opportunities for adopting AI for the continent. When asked about Nigeria, Dotun was elated for coming from a critical African AI hub. He is resonating and deeply rooted in Nigeria’s business terrain. He has been in various discussions to enable his team at 235 Services to visit and deploy IA functionalities to businesses in Nigeria.

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I assert that Nigeria’s best resources are not in the oil field but in the mind field of her people both at home and in the diaspora. All we need is purposeful leadership at all levels, especially in politics. We need an atmosphere and environment where our diversity and intellectual capacities can be harnessed and mined to the more significant advantage of our people. The world is waiting for Africa, and AI is a tool for making it a reality, aside from building institutions and entrenching the rule of law.

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