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Disruptive Opportunities: Can developing AI and robotics stabilise the Naira?

Disruptive Opportunities: Can developing AI and robotics stabilise the Naira?

The massive global investments that are fueling rapidly developing technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics present huge opportunities for Nigeria to pull our currency out from the deep water. Currently, big tech players like the United Kingdom (UK) are outsourcing AI, robotics, and other related jobs to China, where the labour is much cheaper.

One AI and robotics expert believe that this could be the key to strengthening the Naira’s value in the forex market. “In Nigeria, we also have cheaper labour compared to the UK, which has a minimum wage that is higher than ours. If Nigerians can be trained on robotics and AI such that they are able to deliver products along these lines, we can start getting businesses from UK companies and earn ourselves much needed foreign exchange,” says Dr. Olusola Ayoola, founder of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Nigeria (RAIN).

This stems from Ayoola’s own experiences and observations when he went to the UK to work for the University of Manchester in partnership with Forth Engineering Ltd. Robotics contracts were being completed for the UK by China, which itself is a big player in not just developing but manufacturing robotics, AI, and related technologies.

It’s no secret that competing with China would be no easy feat. However, Dr. Ayoola sees one big aspect in which Nigeria can beat China: we’re an English-speaking country. Language remains one of the last biggest barriers in conducting international business, which won’t be a problem between Nigerians and the British.

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Ayoola adds that his organisation, RAIN, is already developing a training centre for the development of these technologies, including programs for internships, research, and product development. Meanwhile, considering the internal socio-political and economic turmoil in the UK, British tech leaders are bound to be scrambling for anything that can give them the edge in terms of leading the AI and robotics race. This could indicate their potential interest in Dr. Ayoola’s proposals.

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Although economically speaking, the British have stayed strong in the face of uncertainty. Despite the looming and yet-unknown final effects of Brexit, FXCM’s real-time active trader spreads monitor identifies the British pound sterling (GBP) as one of the top traded currencies on the planet. It’s joined by the U.S. Dollar (USD), Japanese Yen (JPY), the Euro (EUR), and other high-impact currencies from around the world. Meanwhile, 2019 was a bad year for the Naira in terms of competing with Western currencies —its worst performance against the USD in 20 years.

In short, Nigeria needs the UK more than the other way around. Furthermore, as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has attracted $60 billion (₦169 billion) to the economy by way of an Investors’ & Exporters’ Forex window, Nigeria might very well be able to respond to the growing global demand for AI/robotics development.

As the CBN braces for the Naira’s boosted liquidity this year, there’s much opportunity to be had in terms of international business. For now, only time will tell if Nigeria’s involvement in the AI and robotics sectors is what the Naira needs to attain and maintain stability.

By Jewel Banks