Google Has Opened its First African Artificial Intelligence Lab in Ghana

Tech giant Google is all set to exhibit itself as AI first company in front of the world by opening new research centers across the globe such as in Tokyo, Zurich, New York, and Paris. Following this idea, the company has opened its first center in Africa in Ghana capital city, Accra last week.

While growing up we have always pictured AI as some fiction scene of Sci-fi movie but little do we realize that it has become our reality now. Considering solely Google’s innovation, from virtual assistant to language translation, AI has served it all.

Not only in urban societies but in rural areas also the technology is thriving at its best. Now if a farmer with a smartphone hovers over a withering plant, he/she is more likely to get the easy diagnosis of the disease affecting the plant and according to plan its solution.

Using Google’s AI machine app ‘TensorFlow’, farmers analyze the issue with their plants and boost their production. TensorFlow was outsourced by the company to help developers generate solutions to real-world problems.

Moustapha Cisse, the research scientist heading up Google’s AI efforts in Africa said, “The team’s goal is to provide developers with the necessary research needed to build products that can solve problems that Africa faces today. Most of what we do in our research centers at Google and not just in Accra, we publish it and open-source code, so that everybody can use it to build all sorts of things.”

Cisse precisely indicated that his team is working on to collaborate with the same kind of app used by farmers in Tanzania to diagnose plant issues.

A robot pours popcorn from a cooking pot into a bowl on March 8, 2017 at the Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI) of the university of Bremen, northwestern Germany.

Further, Cisse added, “A team of Pennsylvania University and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture using TensorFlow to build new artificial intelligence models that are deployed on phones to diagnose crop disease. This wasn’t done by us but by people who use the tools we built. When we do science, the results of our research, usually and hopefully, because it is of good quality, goes way further than we expect and we are hoping to see the same things happen here in Accra and across Africa.”

Telling about his team Cisse said that it is a diverse team and it has come out to be an important aspect that Africa is at the forefront of availing with the solution to the continent’s problem.

The African center will zoom into the process of enhancing Google Translate abilities to grab African languages with accuracy as it has more than 2000 dialects and needs to be better served with technology.

Keeping an eye on the rising young population of Africa, Google has joined hands with Facebook and certain other tech companies to launch projects in the region.

There has also been an algorithmic bias problem with AI structure regarding Africans. Google photos soon after its launch in 2015, tagged photos of black people as ‘gorillas’ which created a lot of controversy with the company and compelled it to fix the issue immediately. The struggle with diversity needs to be curbed and an inclusive algorithm representing all end users need to be developed.

Nyalleng Moorosi, a software engineer at the center whose work focuses on making AI more diverse said – “More Africans would be included in data gathering to provide an accurate representation of users. When you build something, you think it will only work for the world you know and your neighborhood. And you forget that maybe it can be so great it becomes deployed to foreign neighborhoods.”

Further, she said, “The best way to go about is to have diverse teams working on these algorithms and then we will get somewhere.”

Despite its bit late schedule, the center is now functional and the company bets on the artificial intelligence technology to have a transformational effect in Africa.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

Ghanaian Educator Who Taught MS Word on a Chalkboard Reflects on the Past Year

When Richard Appiah Akoto appeared onstage at the 2018 Microsoft Educator Exchange (E2), a gathering of innovative educators discussing the latest tech trends in the sector, he received a long and standing ovation from fellow educators. They recognized him as the dedicated educator who resorted to using a chalkboard in his computer studies class because his school, the Betenase Municipal Assembly Junior High School, located in an impoverished farming village in Ghana, had no working PCs.

The photos of Richard painstakingly sketching out a mock-up of a Microsoft Word screen in colored chalk on his classroom blackboard so his students could learn digital skills even without devices, were shared thousands of times on social media. But it wasn’t the first time he’d used this technique – by the time his story went viral, he’d also drawn monitors, system units, keyboards, a mouse, formatting toolbars etc. on the chalkboard in effort to show his students what a computer screen looks like.

His story caught the attention of individuals and organisations everywhere. Microsoft, a company committed to helping every person on the planet achieve more, was particularly inspired by Richard’s determination in helping his students learn digital skills and invited him to attend the 2018 Microsoft Educator Exchange (E2) in Singapore.

A melting pot of skills transfer

E2 is an annual event that sees hundreds of the world’s most innovative educators gather in one place to celebrate incredible work done in the classroom.

During the event, educators share ideas and best practices, collaborate on projects and work together to make progress on some of the most challenging areas of education. Attendees are also energized by meeting like-minded educators and often form sustaining friendships that continue to blossom many months and years after the event has concluded.

This was exactly the case for Richard. “I’d never traveled outside of Ghana, so the opportunity to interact with educators just like me from other parts of the world was incredibly inspiring,” he says.

The seminars and workshops also gave Richard a first-hand glimpse at what the teaching process will look like in the digital future, and best practice tips on how to start preparing for that reality, today. “It was great to see how educators are using technology to teach their students beyond just the curriculum of their country. I was also inspired to learn how educators who experienced the same issues I did in terms of not having direct access to technology, overcame those challenges.”

Overall, Richard says the experience improved his ability to teach Information and Communication Technology (ICT). “Since returning from the event, I feel confident knowing what the future holds, for my profession as well as for my students who are preparing to enter the digital age. I teach with even more enthusiasm today because I know what the digital world of tomorrow looks like.”

Bringing the transformation home

Today, Richard can teach on a computer. With the assistance of organisations like Microsoft, the Sekyedomase village now has two fully-fledged computer centres. “After I returned from E2, we received donations in the form of laptops, textbooks and software from corporates and NGOs in Ghana. It was a great blessing for our community,” he says.

Richard also gained access to the Microsoft Certified Educator Programme (MCE) for professional development, so he can nurture his passion for teaching, and build rich, custom learning experiences.

Every day, Richard is inspired by the children he teaches. “It gives me joy to watch them learning to create the types of skills they will use in the future. From PowerPoint presentations to website codes, these kids are becoming future-ready and I am helping them as best I can using the knowledge I gained at E2 and the Microsoft Certified Educator Programme.”

This year’s E2 will be held in Paris, France from 3-4 April 2019. Microsoft will be bringing more educators like Richard together, not only to celebrate and acknowledge their efforts face-to-face but also to provide them with the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from each other.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

Ghana to Kick-start Year of Ambition at Africa Climate Summit

The provisional program for Africa Climate Week 2019, which is being hosted from 18–22 March in Accra, Ghana, has now been published online – showcasing a dynamic schedule of activities that will demonstrate enhanced ambition across the continent. Full details concerning topics and speakers will follow in due course.

Hosted by the Government of Ghana, the event arrives in the wake of the COP24 international climate negotiations, which concluded with the successful finalization of the ‘Katowice Climate Package’ on 15 December –also known as the Paris Agreement Work Program. It therefore represents the first major climate-orientated event in 2019 that will promote the Program’s ‘guidelines’ as the underpinning to practically implement the Paris Agreement.

The timely completion of these operational elements – and the ramping-up of national ambition relating to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, adapting to the inevitable impacts of climate change and support for developing countries to take climate action – will be critical to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 and, ultimately, keeping the global average temperature rise to as close as possible to 1.5°C.

In terms of climate action, 2019 is already being hailed as the year of ambition, since the world has until 2020 for countries to come back to the table to revise their national climate action plans (also known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or “NDCs”. This is why United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres is convening a landmark Summit in New York this September to spur global leaders to pledge stronger commitments to reduce emissions and strengthen resilience.

In acknowledgment of this Summit as the ‘headline event’ of the year – and recognizing that the Regional Climate Weeks are the obvious stages to precipitate momentum in developing countries in the lead-up to September – Africa Climate Week has firmly aligned itself with the New York event – firstly, by matching its overarching theme “Climate Action in Africa: A Race We Can Win” with that of the September Summit and, secondly, by selecting three of the Summit’s six ‘transformational areas’ as the focus of its thematic sessions on 21-22 March: Energy Transition, Nature-Based Solutions, and Cities and Local Action. The other three areas of the New York Summit will be Climate Action and Carbon pricing; Reducing Emissions from Industry and Building Resilience.

Meanwhile, the high-level segment, which takes place on Wednesday, 20 March, will bring together Ministers and senior leaders – including UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa – and focus on areas such as: visions for Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) enhancement and implementation; carbon pricing and markets, as well as the operationalization of the ambition cycle in the Africa region.

Governments, private sector and other non-Party stakeholders will gather in Accra throughout this Climate Week – which also incorporates two days of affiliated events throughout 18-19 March – to promote the critical work under the three transformational areas via the three levers of policy, technology and finance.

The Africa Climate Week is the first of three annual regional climate events this year – the latter two being the Latin America & Caribbean Climate Week and the Asia Pacific Climate Week – information around each of these events will be released shortly. The Africa Climate Week is being orchestrated by a number of core partners, including World Bank Group, African Development Bank, West African Development Bank, CTCN, UNEP, UNEP DTU Partnership, UNDP, IETA, Marrakech Partnership and UN Climate Change.

Broadly speaking, the collective goal of these Climate Weeks is to support the implementation of countries’ NDCs under the Paris Agreement and climate action to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals. In so doing, they bring together a diverse array of international stakeholders in the public and private sectors around the common goal of enhancing climate action.

Click here to view the program for the event, and here to register.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

From The Hippo’s Ears: Ghana

Contributions by Valentine.

Facts you may not have know about Ghana:

Ghana, officially the Republic of Ghana, is a unitary presidential constitutional democracy, located along the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean, in the sub-region of West Africa. The country is bordered by the Ivory Coast in the west, Burkina Faso in the north, Togo in the east and the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean in the south. Ghana means “Warrior King” in the Soninke language.

Ghana has a population of approximately 28 million, and is a democratic country, led by a president who is both head of state and head of the government.

1.  When you first meet someone, how do you greet them?

When meeting someone, it is common to shake hands as a greeting. It is also common to exchange pleasantries and inquire about family before beginning to transact any business.

2. What languages are spoken in the country?

English is the language of the state and widely used as a lingua franca. There are eleven languages that have the status of government-sponsored languages. As Ghana is surrounded by French-speaking countries, French is widely taught in schools and universities, as well as a language used for commercial and international economic exchanges. Since 2006, Ghana is an associate member of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, the global organisation that unites French-speaking countries.

3. Do you use a twelve hour clock, or a twenty-four hour clock?

We use a mix of 12- and 24-hour systems.

4. What side of the road do people drive on? What do we need to know about driving in the country?

We drive on the right side of road. One needs to be extra careful with taxis and commercial vehicles, as they sometimes stop or enter roads without any indication.

5. How important is punctuality?

Punctuality is not of the utmost importance, and events often start later than scheduled.

6. Which types of music are popular? Who are some of the most popular musicians?

The music of Ghana is diverse and varies between different ethnic groups and regions. Ghanaian music incorporates several distinct types of musical instruments such as the talking drum ensembles, Akan Drum, goje fiddle and koloko lute, court music, including the Akan Seperewa, the Akan atumpan, the Ga kpanlogo styles, and log xylophones used in asonko music. The most well known genres to have come from Ghana are African jazz, which was created by Ghanaian artist Kofi Ghanaba, and its earliest form of secular music, called highlife. Highlife originated in the late 19th century and early 20th century and spread throughout West Africa.

By the late 1990s, a new generation of artists discovered the so-called Hiplife. The originator of this style is Reggie Rockstone, a Ghanaian musician who dabbled with hip-hop in the United States before finding his unique style. Around the same time, the hip hop genre came into existence in Ghana.

For a taste of Senegalese music, listen to Reggie Rockstone’s Mapouka, and Efya’s Until the Dawn.

7. Are there any Traditional Dances?

Ghanaian dance is as diverse as its music, and there are traditional dances and different dances for different occasions. The best known Ghanaian dances are those performed during celebrations. These dances include the Adowa, Kpanlogo, Azonto, Klama, and Bamaya.

8.  What traditional Festivals are celebrated in the country?

Ghana plays host to many traditional, commemorative festivals celebrated throughout the year, which may be specific to certain cultural groups.

One such festival is the Odambea Festival, celebrated annually on the last Saturday of August. by the “Nkusukum” chiefs and people of the Saltpond Traditional Area. This event commemorates the migration of the “Nkusukum” people centuries ago from Techiman (500km away) to their present settlement. “Odambea” means “fortified link”, a name resulting from the role played by the “Nkusukum” people in keeping the migrant groups in touch with each other following their exodus from Techiman. A special feature of the festival is the re-enactment of the ancient life styles of the people, which provides a unique opportunity to learn more about how they migrated.

Another example is the Akwasidae Festival, held every six weeks, and celebrated by the Ashanti residents. The celebrations relate to honoring personal and community ancestors, and take place at the Manhyia Palace. The Ashanti King meets the chiefs in the Palace courtyard, and attendees are greeted with music and a parade.

9. What are the seasons like?

The climate of Ghana is tropical and there are two main seasons: the wet season and the dry season. The eastern coastal belt is warm and comparatively dry, the south-west corner of Ghana is hot and humid, and the north of Ghana is hot and dry.

North Ghana experiences its rainy season from April to mid-October while South Ghana experiences its rainy season from March to mid-November. Average daily temperatures range from 30°C (86°F) during the day to 24°C (75°F) at night with a relative humidity between 77 percent and 85 percent. Rainfall ranges from 78 to 216 centimeters (31 to 85 inches) a year.

10. What are some interesting facts about the President?

President Nana Akufo-Addo has been in office since January 2017. He previously served as Attorney General from 2001 to 2003 and as Minister for Foreign Affairs from 2003 to 2007.

Akufo-Addo first ran for President in 2008 and again in 2012, both times as the candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), but was defeated on both occasions. When he won during his third run, in 2016, it was the first time a sitting Ghanaian President had not won a second term.

In September 2017, the president launched the Free High School Education (SHS) policy, which will make secondary high school free for students in Ghana. Akufo-Addo was given an award for Exemplary Leadership in 2018 by the Whitaker Group.

11. What are the country’s major industries?

The economy of Ghana has a diverse and rich resource base, including the manufacturing and exportation of digital technology goods, automotive and ship construction and exportation, and the exportation of diverse and rich resources such as hydrocarbons and industrial minerals. These have given Ghana one of the highest GDP per capita in West Africa.

It is an emerging designated digital economy with mixed economy hybridization and an emerging market. It has an economic plan target known as the “Ghana Vision 2020”. This plan envisions Ghana as the first African country to become a developed country between 2020 and 2029 and a newly industrialized country between 2030 and 2039.

Ghana’s main exports are crude oil, gold, and cocoa beans. The Ministry of Tourism has placed great emphasis upon further tourism support and development. Tourist destinations include Ghana’s many castles and forts, national parks, beaches, nature reserves, landscapes and World Heritage buildings and sites.

12. How do people spend their free time?

Locals spend their free time in many different ways, with some choosing to spend time with family and friends, and others choosing to watch a football game, or develop a hobby.

13. What is a popular local drink?

In south Ghana, Ghanaian drinks such as asaana (made from fermented maize) are common. Along the Lake Volta and south Ghana, palm wine extracted from the palm tree can be found, but it ferments quickly and then it is used to distil akpeteshie (a local gin).  Along north Ghana, bisaab/sorrel, toose and lamujee (a spicy sweetened drink) are common non-alcoholic beverages whereas pitoo (a local beer made of fermented millet) is an alcoholic beverage.

Ghanaian distilleries produce alcoholic beverages from cocoa, malt, sugar cane, local medicinal herbs and tree barks. They include bitters, liqueur, dry gins, beer, and aperitifs.

14. What is a popular local dish?

Ghanaian main dishes are organized around a starchy staple food, with which goes a sauce or soup containing a protein sauce. The main ingredient for the vast majority of soups and stews are tomatoes- canned or fresh tomatoes can be used. As a result, nearly all Ghanaian soups and stews are red or orange in appearance.

The typical staple foods in the southern part of Ghana include cassava and plantain. In the northern part, the main staple foods include millet and sorghum. Yam, maize and beans are used across Ghana as staple foods. Sweet potatoes and cocoyam are also important in the Ghanaian diet and cuisine.

An example of a rice-based meal is waakye – a dish of rice and beans with a purple-brown color. The color comes from an indigenous leaf known as sorghum bi-color. This side dish bears striking similarities to West Indian rice and peas. The rice is cooked and steamed with an indigenous leaf, coconut and a pulse such as black-eyed or kidney beans. An example of a maize-based meal is Kenkey/Komi/Dokonu – fermented corn dough, wrapped in corn originating from the Ga who call it komi or Ga kenkey. Another variety originating from the Fanti people is Fante Dokono or Fanti Kenkey which is wrapped with plantain leaves that give it a different texture, flavour and colour as compared to the Ga kenkey. Both are boiled for long periods into a consistent solid balls.

Street food is very popular in both rural and urban areas of Ghana. Ghanaian families eat frequently at street food vendors, from whom all kinds of foods can be bought, including staple foods such as kenkey, red red and waakye. Other savoury foods such as kebab, boiled corn cob, ballfloat (bo-float) and roasted plantain are sold mainly by street food vendors.

15. What do you pay, on average, for the following? (1 USD = approx. GHS 4.79)

3 Course meal: ₵ 75
Domestic beer (500ml): ₵ 6
Cup of coffee: ₵ 10
Coca cola (330ml): ₵ 4
Milk (1l): ₵ 10
Loaf of white bread: ₵ 5
Apples (1 kg): ₵ 12
Water (1.5l): ₵ 3

16. Any general safety tips?

Ghana is regarded as one of the safest African countries for tourists, however it is still a good idea to remain vigilant when walking around, especially alone. It is best not to leave valuables exposed in your car, walk alone at night, carry large sums of money on you, and not accept rides from strangers.

17. In conclusion, famous (and sometimes infamous) people from the country include:

  • Kofi Annan, a Ghanaian diplomat who served as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 1997 to December 2006. Annan and the UN were the co-recipients of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize. He is the founder and chairman of the Kofi Annan Foundation, as well as chairman of The Elders, an international organization founded by Nelson Mandela.
  • Akosua Busia, a Ghanaian actress, film director, author and songwriter who lives in the U.K. Busia is best known for her role as Nettie Harris in the 1985 film The Color Purple alongside Whoopi Goldberg.
  • Michael Essien, a Ghanaian professional footballer. He has also been capped for the Ghana national team more than 50 times.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, and Remuneration needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5]. Image sources: Kobe Subramaniam on Unsplash [1].

Immigration changes in Ghana and Nigeria

GHANA | Recent Announcement Requires Medical Certificates to Be Obtained In-Country 

The Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) recently posted a brief announcement of a new policy – purportedly with an effective date of February 15 – requiring all new applicants for work and residence permits to obtain medical certificates only through the GIS medical facility at its headquarters in Ghana. Previously, medical certificates in support of a work permit applications could be issued by a local doctor in the applicant’s home country.

The practical implication of the announcement and new policy is somewhat unclear, as work permit applications are typically made before the applicant travels to Ghana. If this new policy is implemented, it will have significant impact for the work permit application process. Immigration Specialists in Ghana are struggling to sort-out the new policy; however, thus far, the GIS has released no further guidance.

 

 

NIGERIA | New Executive Order Imposes Tougher Local Hiring Measures
On February 2, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari signed an executive order (EO5) aimed at promoting local Nigerian expertise in science, engineering, and technology. EO5 prohibits the federal Ministry of Interior (FMI) from issuing visas to foreign workers whose skills are deemed to be readily available in Nigeria. Consideration of work visas will only be given to foreign nationals where has been certified by the appropriate governmental authority that such expertise is not available in Nigeria. Under the order, Nigerian government agencies must also give hiring preference to foreign companies and firms with demonstrable and verifiable plans for indigenous development.

While further guidelines and directives on the implementation of EO5 are expected from the authorities, the executive order is expected to have significant impact on the employment-based immigration of foreign nationals, especially in fields of science, engineering, and technology. Companies hiring foreign workers should expect more rigorous scrutiny of applications for expatriate quotas and the stricter application of requirements such as the understudies requirement, registration with professional bodies, and more onsite visits and audits by Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS).

 

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