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Nigeria Launches First Multilingual Large Language Model to Spearhead AI Development in Africa

Nigeria launches its first multilingual large language model, spearheading AI development in Africa with strategic collaborations and a robust national AI strategy.

Strategic Collaborations and National AI Strategy Unveiled

In a significant advancement for artificial intelligence (AI) in Africa, Nigeria has launched its first multilingual large language model (LLM), marking a major step forward in the country’s ambition to lead AI development on the continent. The announcement was made by Nigeria’s Communications Minister, Dr. Bosun Tijani, following a productive four-day AI workshop in Abuja.

Source: Dr. Bosun Tijani

Collaborative Efforts Propel AI Initiatives

The development of the LLM was facilitated through a collaborative effort involving key stakeholders such as Nigerian AI firm Awarritech, global tech company DataDotOrg, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), and the National Centre for AI and Robotics (NCAIR). This multilingual model is designed to be trained in five low-resource languages and accented English, enhancing the representation of these languages in AI applications.

Dr. Tijani highlighted the model’s significance, stating, "The LLM will ensure stronger language representation in existing datasets for the development of artificial intelligence solutions." He added that the project would benefit from the support of over 7,000 fellows from the 3MTT Nigeria program, boosting local expertise and involvement.

National AI Strategy and Infrastructure Enhancement

The workshop also served as a platform for the initial draft of Nigeria’s National AI Strategy, which includes plans for significant advancements and collaborations aimed at propelling the country’s AI capabilities. Among the key announcements was a partnership between 21st Century Technologies, Galaxy Backbone, and NCAIR Nigeria to accelerate AI project development crucial to the nation.

21st Century Technology will fund the acquisition of GPUs to enhance the national computing capacity, supporting local researchers, startups, and government entities in AI projects hosted at the GBB Data Centre in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Revitalization of NCAIR and Support from Global Partners

In addition to technological advancements, the Minister announced the relaunch of NCAIR, which is set to enhance its role as a digital innovation and research center focusing on AI, robotics, UAVs, and the Internet of Things (IoT). These efforts are intended to foster practical applications of these technologies across Nigeria's key sectors.

Funding and International Support

The National AI Strategy has garnered significant support, receiving $3.5 million in seed funding from a combination of foreign and local partners, including UNDP, UNESCO, major tech giants like Meta, Google, Microsoft, and academic institutions such as Lagos Business School. The strategy encompasses $1.5 million in direct funding and an additional $2 million invested by 21st Century Technologies into the pilot program.