BCG Henderson Institute

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They‘re the A.I. exceptions making an impact in the Global South today that must prove to be the rule tomorrow. In Kenya, Safaricom and Commercial Bank of Africa have been using A.I. to review online loan applications from remote areas; to predict the probability of defaults; and to provide small loans to over 20 million Kenyans. In Mexico, Clinicas de Azucar has deployed the technology to gather a variety of patient data; analyze that data; and make recommendations to over 150,000 Mexicans who run the risk of becoming diabetics. In Brazil, Revelo is using A.I. to study online education and job platform data to deliver upskilling recommendations that will improve many Brazilians‘ employability.

Despite these promising beginnings, the use of A.I. in the countries of the Global South is still uncommon (other than in China, one of the world’s A.I. co-leaders). The incumbents use A.I. infrequently; too few digital ventures work on developing applications; and the technology is a long way from attaining scale. Just 7% of the companies in the Global South use A.I. at present, compared to nearly 60% in China, according to recent data.

If the Global South’s companies continue to trail those of the developed world in adopting A.I., they run the risk of becoming marginalized even at home. In many sectors, foreign rivals will sooner or later overtake the domestic market leaders by using A.I. To remain competitive, the incumbents must play the role of A.I. national champions, and become the prime movers in the use of the technology in their home markets. Not only will doing so enable the incumbents to unlock additional value as first movers but also, it will help them retain their market leadership.

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