Call For Papers: Building a Just AI Ecosystem in Africa

January 30, 2024

While artificial intelligence (AI) may have the potential to drive solutions to some of the greatest crises of our time, that potential is distributed unevenly. African countries often lack the resources, scale, and scope to deploy AI in ways that build internationally competitive systems, contribute to public value creation or redress existing injustices.

A just AI ecosystem is one in which technology systems are ethical, non-discriminatory, and non-exploitative. In such a system, human rights are both preserved and extended to empower people and countries, and governance is guided by equity and care for all.

Research ICT Africa (RIA), a leading centre of excellence in AI governance, invites submissions for its upcoming 2024 Africa Just AI conference. The research agenda for this conference is to further contribute to an evidence base for the development of secure, sustainable, and just AI frameworks that are responsive to African needs, conscious of the fact that current notions of responsible AI, with their focus on individual rights and ethical compliance, will not necessarily produce just outcomes.

Important dates

  • Extended abstract (±750 words) submission deadline: 8 March 2024
  • Notification of abstract acceptance: 22 March 2024
  • Just AI conference: 27 – 28 June 2024

The conference forms part of RIA’s Africa Just AI research programme, which seeks to fill the critical need for research to explore ways to redress the harms associated with data-driven technologies and the uneven distribution of opportunities both within and between countries. RIA’s Just AI project falls under the Artificial Intelligence for Development in Africa (AI4D Africa) program launched in 2020, supported by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Sweden’s government agency for development cooperation (Sida).

This conference will draw together a community of African AI researchers to share their research and engage with policymakers, data regulators, and continental and international multilateral bodies. We encourage original submissions from researchers working across diverse disciplines, including economics, law, ethics, politics, data science, and social sciences more broadly.

Conference themes

RIA invites papers that address the following themes:

AI, Data Justice and Data Governance: New waves of data justice research have extended the rights discourse from first-generation civil and political rights to second-generation economic rights. These call for regulatory intervention to redress the uneven social impacts of datafication on different communities but also the extreme imbalances in the distribution of economic opportunities. We particularly welcome papers that investigate third-generation solidarity rights that account for collective rights, harms, and decision-making, highlighting the need to balance these with individual data and privacy rights, especially in the public interest. 

AI Policy and Economic Justice: This theme hones in on the economic policies required by African countries to manage and optimise the deployment of AI for sustainable development. Research in this area examines the cross-cutting impact on the economy and society, from revenue mobilisation for the state to redistribution of wealth, social protection, trade, and labour. We welcome papers that study the economic risks and opportunities associated with AI deployment in Africa and the policies and strategies needed to ensure that AI technologies contribute to a more equitable and sustainable economy.

Feminism, Gender, and AI: Exploring the intersections of gender, race, class and other inequalities in AI development and deployment, this theme seeks to identify and address the gendered impacts of AI technologies. Furthermore, it examines the potential of feminist framings, approaches, and methodologies that could offer pathways to redress intersectional social, economic, and collective inequality across the continent and beyond.

AI and Democracy: 2024 has been named “the biggest election year in history” with nearly 50% of the world’s population going to the polls. This makes identifying and mitigating potential risks of AI to democracy particularly important. Papers in this area will examine trends in AI and democracy and consider under what conditions AI may be helpful to strengthen democratic processes and institutions in Africa.

Sustainability and Green Energy for AI Development: Acknowledging the enormous amount of energy required by the servers and data warehouses necessary for AI technologies, this topic seeks to identify the role of renewable energy in enabling the sustainable deployment of energy-intensive AI technologies. This theme can also be explored in the context of climate change mitigation and climate-induced migration, where AI has significant potential to support planning, rapid response, and risk mitigation but will require proactive governance to limit harms

Submission details

Please submit proposals by 8 March 2024 to [email protected].  Only submissions in English can be accepted.

Submissions should include:

  • Title of paper
  • Lead researcher’s name, affiliation, and contact information
  • Three to five keywords
  • Main body text, including a concise review of extant literature, methodology, findings, discussion, and summary sections, depending on your research field’s conventions.

A limited number of fellowships will be made available to encourage the participation of Africans working on African policy research challenges. There may also be a minimal conference fee to cover costs.