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Accepted Paper:

Exploring Ubuntu as the ethical framework for an AI-based Just Transition to the Circular Economy in Sub-Sahara Africa and Beyond  
Shamira Ahmed (Data Economy Policy Hub)

Paper short abstract:

Considerations of the ethical implications of artificial intelligence (AI) to achieve a just transition to the circular economy (JTCE) have been limited and concentrated on global North perspectives. This workshop explores an AI ethics framework based on the pan-African principles of Ubuntu ethics.

Paper long abstract:

There is growing global hype that a green-digital twin transition can be achieved by leveraging data-intensive digital technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) combined with more sustainable industrial and economic models such as the circular economy (CE). However, most countries well positioned to build AI-based circular innovation at scale are based in the global North.

In Sub-Sahara Africa (SSA) the concept of circularity is not new ⸺ Many indigenous communities have been using circular principles for generations, and in contrast to many Western notions of industrial circularity, indigenous SSA notions of circularity take on an animist view of Ubuntu, which considers communities as environmental stewards in a “circle of life” where flows of matter, energy, and relations exist between all organisms in a balanced closed loop with an emphasis on interdependencies, synergetic relationships, mutual respect, restorative justice, and the greater common good⸺ including for the environment.

The current global governance, design, and deployment of AI systems to lessen environmental degradation present significant ethical challenges to the pan-African philosophy of Ubuntu, they are made without meaningful global communal accountability and regulation, are extractive, often ignore indigenous knowledge and historical injustices, and are driven by commercial and techno-nationalist agendas to gain global dominance of AI innovations and hardware value chains that power frontier technologies. This paper addresses this gap, by outlining how an ethical AI framework based on Ubuntu can be used in SSA contexts and beyond, for a just transition to the circular economy (JTCE).

Panel P52
Towards rethinking and decolonizing Africa's development futures: the place of indigenous knowledge
  Session 1 Thursday 29 June, 2023, -