"In the last decade, Africa has been a tremendous growth story -- yet the continent's challenges, stemming from population growth, water scarcity, disease, low agricultural yield and other factors are impediments to inclusive economic growth," said Kamal Bhattacharya, Director, IBM Research - Africa. "With the ability to learn from emerging patterns and discover new correlations, Watson's cognitive capabilities hold enormous potential in Africa - helping it to achieve in the next two decades what today's developed markets have achieved over two centuries."
IBM's Watson represents a new era of cognitive computing, in which systems and software are not programmed, but actually improve by learning so they can discover answers to questions and uncover insights by analyzing massive amounts of Big Data.
Watson technologies will be deployed from IBM's new Africa Research laboratory providing researchers with a set of resources to help develop commercially-viable solutions in key areas such as healthcare, education, water and sanitation, human mobility and agriculture.
To help fuel the cognitive computing market and build an ecosystem around Watson, IBM will also establish a new pan-African Center of Excellence for Data-Driven Development (CEDD) and is recruiting research partners such as universities, development agencies, start-ups and clients in Africa and around the world.
Big Data technologies have a major role to play in Africa's development challenges: from understanding food price patterns, to estimating GDP and poverty numbers, to anticipating disease - the key is turning data into knowledge and actionable insight.
Two of the first focus areas of the new center are healthcare and education.
IBM has also announced the opening of new IBM Innovation Centers in Lagos, Nigeria; Casablanca, Morocco, and Johannesburg, South Africa. These new centers aim to fuel an ecosystem of development and entrepreneurship around Big Data analytics and cloud computing in the region.