No ad to show here.

Ethical AI: More Than Just a Buzzword

As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to dominate headlines globally, questions about its ethical implementation and regulatory compliance loom large. For Vishala Panday, Head: Compliance and Business Services at Afriwise, these issues are particularly pertinent in the African context, where the tech landscape is rapidly evolving amidst unique challenges and opportunities.

“Ethics and AI is exactly the same principle. AI is an enabler, it’s a vehicle, it’s a mechanism, but does it change your core values? It shouldn’t,” Panday asserts. She emphasises that while technology evolves rapidly, the fundamental ethical considerations remain constant. This perspective is crucial as African businesses navigate the complex intersection of innovation and compliance.

No ad to show here.

Panday, whose role at Afriwise focuses on regulatory technology (regtech) solutions for Africa, brings a unique perspective to the table. Her journey from law school to various roles in industry, procurement, and compliance has given her a holistic view of the challenges facing businesses in Africa. “I’m just an outlier when it comes to legal people,” says Panday reflecting on her career path. This non-traditional experience has equipped her with a rare combination of legal acumen and business savvy, allowing her to bridge the gap between compliance requirements and practical implementation.

One of the key issues Panday highlights is the disconnect between legal practitioners and technology. “The two most counterintuitive concepts are legal and technology because they’re like, they just don’t know,” she explains. This gap in understanding often leads to difficulties in implementing effective compliance solutions. “We’re trying to sell this really super-duper stuff that’s evolving every day to people who are just not tech-savvy at all,” Panday notes. This challenge is particularly acute in Africa, where many businesses are still in the early stages of digital transformation.

For many African businesses, the concept of AI-driven compliance is still in its infancy. Panday notes that many clients “don’t even know what they want” when it comes to compliance programmes. This lack of clarity often results in companies investing in overly complex “Rolls Royce” solutions that they’re ill-equipped to utilise effectively. Instead, Panday advocates for “fit for purpose” technology that aligns with a company’s current maturity level and can grow with them. She stresses the importance of understanding the end goal: “Can we take you to the end, and connect the dots backwards?” This approach is particularly relevant in the African context, where businesses often face unique regulatory challenges and resource constraints. Panday emphasises the need for solutions that are not only technologically advanced but also adaptable to local realities.

While concerns about AI bias are prevalent in more developed markets, Panday reveals that these discussions are not yet at the forefront in Africa. “Our clients are not even there,” she says. Instead, the focus is on using AI and technology to build more compliant companies and change the narrative about doing business in Africa. However, Panday acknowledges that bias in AI systems is a potential future concern. “If there is an infringement and the infringement is big enough for someone to have said something, then you know you have to go back and check what it is that you have done or check whether your processes are actually as valid as you say they are,” she explains.

“We want Africa to be more attractive,” Panday states. By leveraging AI to improve regulatory compliance, she hopes to challenge the perception that Africa is a high-risk investment destination. “If we start using AI and technology to build more compliant companies, we change the narrative of doing business in Africa,” Panday argues. This vision goes beyond mere technological adoption; it’s about using innovation to address systemic challenges and create new opportunities for economic growth.

However, Panday cautions against a tick-box approach to compliance. She notes that many companies focus on “non-value adding activities” rather than “maneuvering and shifting the organisation towards real, evidentiary-based compliance.” “A lot of people think that they’re compliant because they have the law sitting in a database,” Panday observes. She stresses that true compliance goes far beyond documentation, requiring a deep understanding of regulatory requirements and their practical implications for business operations.

Panday also highlights the evolving skill set required for in-house legal and compliance professionals. “I think more and more companies are not investing in Rolls Royce legal functions,” she notes. This shift, coupled with the rapid pace of technological change, creates new challenges for organisations seeking to build robust compliance programmes. “To scope for technology, you need to know the end-to-end process and you need to have looked and walked through the process,” Panday explains. This underscores the need for professionals who can bridge the gap between legal expertise and technological understanding.

The journey towards ethical AI and effective compliance in Africa is just beginning. As the continent’s tech ecosystem matures, it faces a unique opportunity to leapfrog legacy systems and establish new benchmarks for responsible innovation. Panday’s vision of using AI to reshape Africa’s business narrative is both ambitious and timely. It challenges tech leaders and policymakers to look beyond short-term gains and consider the broader implications of their decisions.

As African businesses continue to adopt AI and other emerging technologies, the emphasis on ethical considerations and compliance will likely intensify. The continent’s diverse regulatory landscape and rapid digital transformation present both challenges and opportunities. By focusing on purpose-driven innovation and pragmatic implementation, Africa has the potential to develop a model for ethical AI that resonates far beyond its borders. In this evolving landscape, voices like Panday’s will be crucial in guiding the continent towards a future where technology serves as a tool for inclusive growth and sustainable development.

Read next: Africa’s AI vision built on ‘inclusivity, innovation, impact’

No ad to show here.



Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights. sign up

Welcome to Ventureburn

Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights.

Exit mobile version