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Bringing Next-Gen AI Developer Experiences to Africa

Arm colleagues and ambassadors have been travelling across Africa, highlighting the range of AI-based developer experiences running on Arm.
By Stephen Ozoigbo, Senior Director, Ecosystem Development, Education and Research, Arm

In the past two years, Arm has undertaken various initiatives throughout Africa as part of our commitment to support developer communities and local technology ecosystems on the continent. This commitment to Africa continues to gather momentum as part of Arm’s broad mission to build the future of computing and enable AI everywhere, across all technology touchpoints and every corner of the globe. This is why we have been involved in a series of events and initiatives in Africa that focus on education and engagement around Arm-based technologies across the broad computing spectrum.

AI Expo Africa

The first event was AI Expo Africa in South Africa, which is billed as the largest AI and Intelligent Automation Trade show on the continent. In fact, this year saw the largest turnout ever, making it the perfect event for Arm to officially launch our Developer Program for the African audience.

At AI Expo Africa, we joined a community of industry stakeholders from the continent to share the latest Arm IP, tools and resources, with a focus on educating and empowering all developers in the region. We also showcased how Arm is forging a path to the future of computing with local ecosystem solutions designed to support the rapid development of AI.

This commitment was on full display through our demos that covered every corner of computing, including laptops, servers, mobile, and the full spectrum of IoT and embedded systems, with all of them having strong propositions for Endpoint and Edge AI use cases. For the Windows Dev Kit 2023 and Ampere Mt. Collins Server demos, these were the first time that the hardware had been showcased in Africa!

The 2023 Windows Dev Kit was loaded with Visual Studio 2022, as well as Visual Studio Code, and the .Net 7 Arm64 software development kit (SDK) – which are some of the latest developments within the Windows on Arm ecosystem. The demo highlighted the speed and performance of Windows on Arm laptops when opening the latest applications and working with the Windows 11 UI installed on the devices. It also showed how it was possible to install all the workloads in Visual Studio 2022, including the Unity and Unreal Engine development tools for gaming.

The Ampere Mt. Collins Server became a talking point throughout the event due to the improved performance and reduced power consumption that it provides. It has two of Ampere’s Altra CPUs that feature 80 Arm Neoverse N1 cores, giving a total of 160 cores. As AI workloads intensify, it is becoming increasingly important for data centers to maintain performance, power efficiency and a low total cost of ownership. This is exactly what the Neoverse compute platform delivers, alongside an unmatched flexibility for our partners to innovate.

The Arm booth at AI Africa Expo

The additional demos were a range hardware, including the Arduino Pro and BrainChip’s Akida, that highlighted how Arm IP can be implemented across embedded systems that utilize AI workloads. As compute power increases, developers can leverage AI workloads for applications that are targeting the smallest, most power and cost-constrained embedded systems, all built on Arm.

At the event, we also hosted a workshop that featured a hands-on equipment and stage display, including live run-throughs of the demos listed previously. This was alongside a live demo of Arm Virtual Hardware, which showed how the IoT development tool offers a variety of fully-virtualized devices, from an Arm-based Android phone to Raspberry Pi 4.

AI Expo Africa demonstrated how the variety of Arm-powered computing solutions can benefit developers in the region from all backgrounds, while also showcasing how Arm is simplifying the deployment of AI workloads across all technology markets. We were extremely grateful for the support shown by Arm Developer Program Distinguised Ambassador Peter Ing who displayed an infectious enthusiasm for all things Arm throughout the event. He presents a very detailed technical rundown of each Arm demo showcased at AI Expo Africa in this blog.

We are looking for more African-based ambassadors to join the Arm Developer Program, highlighting the breadth and diversity of engineering talent that exists on the continent.

Microsoft Partnership in Morocco

After AI Expo Africa, we travelled north to Morocco where we joined Microsoft to mark the inauguration of the Microsoft Sustainability Core Innovation Center at UM6P – Mohammed VI Polytechnic University. The center represents a fantastic opportunity to empower Windows on Arm developers, startups and researchers based in Morocco with world-class tools and resources to support the development of computing solutions that are relevant to the needs of the region.

At the inauguration of the Microsoft Sustainability Core Innovation Center

From the event, it was clear that the Morocco developer ecosystem is growing tremendously. Arm’s own developer engagement event at the 1337 Coding School attracted over 400 attendees, which included an energetic pool of future Arm developers. One of these was Mehdi Charouh, the newest African-based Arm Developer Program Ambassador.

Building world-class engineering talent

Following the successful launch of the Arm labs in Ghana earlier in 2023, there has been a deeper sense of purpose towards delivering a sustainable pipeline of home-grown talent in Africa. We are achieving this aim through delivering various Arm-based training, tools, and technology resources. This is why events like AI Expo Africa and Microsoft Morocco are so important, as they give us a platform to raise awareness of our work, enhance developer access to Arm’s technology and resources, and provide training through various workshops and developer events.

We are already seeing positive results, with increasing numbers of students, start-up founders and researchers being exposed to computing solutions that are built on Arm. In fact, the Communities of Practice that have been created from our work in Africa have grown to thousands of members across a variety of different user groups. Through leveraging Arm workshops, tech talks, and partner resources, these members are then sharing, training, and peer-coaching themselves into a formidable network of self-directed learners. This is ushering in a generation of talent ready to explore, learn, and build on Arm.

My takeaways from the Northern and Southern African Ecosystems

During my time in Africa at AI Expo Africa and in Morocco, it was clear that the continent has the potential to be at the forefront of technology innovation in emerging markets, with a range of AI-based products and solutions being built on the Arm compute platform. This is not just reserved for low power embedded computing systems, but across every corner of computing with Arm enabling the deployment of AI in all these markets. However, this will require ongoing collaboration across the African technology ecosystem, with Arm’s own industry-leading ecosystem supporting this collaboration and accelerating the development of new AI-based computing solutions.

Our efforts towards Developer Education in the region continue to support a capacity building model that meets Arm Education’s current Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSA) frameworks. This is creating an ongoing pipeline of outstanding engineering talent across Africa that are fully engaged with Arm’s technology and resources.

Arm is committed to bringing all this incredible work together to achieve the most impact, whether it is through the Developer Program, industry events, workshops or in partnership with other leading technology companies. It is clear that there are significant opportunities for African-based developers to build innovative AI computing solutions on Arm.

Interested in the Arm Developer Program?

If you are interested in learning more about the Arm Developer Program, becoming a member or even becoming an ambassador, then visit the website.

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Brian Fuller & Jack Melling
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