The impact of artificial intelligence reverberates across the globe, heralding transformative advancements in various fields. 

From the evolution of large language models (LLMs) capable of reasoning, self-reflection and creativity to the revolution of generative imagery, AI has taken centre stage in technological innovation. 

Generative AI tools, for example, can be used for building AI virtual assistants that answer all their customers’ questions – just as we’ve done with our own app with virtual assistant Yasmine.

In the Middle East, as governments embark on ambitious expansion plans, particularly in AI adoption such as the Vision 2030 in Saudi Arabia, there are vast opportunities for various industries to join the AI wave, ushering in a new era of innovation and efficiency.

Falcon LLM: Soaring towards innovation

The Middle East, often seen as a nexus of tradition and innovation, is swiftly emerging as a global AI hub. Governments across the region have recognised AI’s transformative potential, paving the way for significant advancements across sectors such as technology, healthcare, and beyond. As we approach mid-2024, we witness the onset of the second stage of AI applications, marked by tangible monetisation opportunities.

A notable exemplar of this trend is the launch of Falcon 180B by the Technology Innovation Institute in the UAE. This cutting-edge large language model (LLM) powered by generative AI not only cements the UAE’s position in the global AI market but also offers Falcon 180B as an open-access model for research and commercial endeavours.

AI revolutionising digital payments

In another groundbreaking development, AstraTech, a leading UAE technology company, integrates an Arabic language ChatGPT function into its Botim app. Botim, a messaging and voice-over-internet protocol solution, now utilises generative AI to enable functionalities such as payments and international money transfers tailored to the MENA region’s unique needs. Notably, Botim recently became the pioneer fintech platform to offer the Central Bank of the UAE’s (CBUAE) Aani advanced instant payment platform solution via Al Etihad Payments.

This innovative service facilitates immediate and secure money transfers between numbers, heralding a revolution in the UAE’s fintech sector. This builds upon past instances of AI utilisation in payment systems, such as Dubai-based company Careem’s claim of leveraging AI to thwart 35,000 fraudulent users across its food delivery, payments, and transportation platforms.

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Unleashing economic potential with generative AI

The economic impact of generative AI in the Middle East looms substantial, with estimates projecting nearly $23.5 billion annually by 2030,  according to research by Strategy&. Aaron McClendon, Head of AI at Aimpoint Digital. This underscores the immense potential of generative AI in the MENA region. Its applications span from translation tools and chatbots to healthcare diagnostics and investment analysis, promising transformative outcomes across various sectors.

The digital contribution to the Middle East, standing at 4.1% of its overall economy akin to China’s status 15 years ago, signals a trajectory of exponential growth. Predicted to grow at a rate of 20% per year, this digital expansion lays a fertile ground for the development, deployment, and optimisation of AI technologies. UBS equity strategist Sundeep Gantori forecasts the region’s digital economy to surge to $780 billion by 2030, a significant leap from $180 billion in 2022.

Saudi Arabia and UAE pioneering advancements in AI 

Leading the charge in spearheading the MENA region’s artificial intelligence market is Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Projections indicate a remarkable growth trajectory, with the market expected to skyrocket from $500 million in 2020 to a staggering $8.4 billion by 2026. The UAE’s AI market is anticipated to reach $1.9 billion by 2026, aligning with its ambitious Centennial 2071 plan. The goal is to position the country as a global innovation powerhouse, setting the stage for groundbreaking advancements within the next five decades.

Business leaders in the MENA region are embracing AI as essential for future organisational development. A report by consultancy firm Proviti reveals that over 80% of CEOs consider AI crucial for their businesses’ future, with more than 70% actively investing in this burgeoning sector. AI-driven collaboration among regional businesses promises enhanced employee and customer experiences, driving unprecedented efficiencies and innovations.

Embracing a digital revolution

Looking ahead to the remainder of 2024, we can anticipate a continuation of these transformative trends. The region’s commitment to a localised fourth industrial revolution will propel its shift towards an innovation-driven economy. Saudi Arabia remains steadfast in its digital ambitions, with the digital sector already valued at $40 billion. Plans to invest $24.7 billion towards GenAI and robotics technology by 2025 underscore the country’s dedication to technological advancement.

Ultimately, 2024 holds immense promise for the Middle East’s AI landscape. From the development of cutting-edge language models to the integration of AI in everyday applications like messaging platforms, the region is embracing AI as a linchpin of its future growth. With substantial investments, strategic partnerships, and a clear vision for AI integration, the Middle East is poised to emerge as a global leader in AI innovation, transforming industries and enhancing the lives of its citizens in profound ways.

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