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Kenya’s IT Industry Rejects Bill On Robots And Artificial Intelligence

Kenya’s IT industry stakeholders have called on parliament to reject a proposed bill on artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics technology, warning that if implemented, it would “bring about a national disaster”.

The bill, titled the Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Association Act of 2023, was submitted to parliament in November 2023 through a public petition by Fred Ondieki Sagwe, a representative of the Kenya Robotics Association.

It established the Kenya Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Association to oversee the industry, funded by taxpayers’ money and licensing fees. All participants in the industry would have to obtain a license from the association, or face a fine of one million Kenyan shillings ($6,329), a maximum of two years in prison, or both.

The bill has met with strong opposition from the tech industry, who say that they were not consulted in the drafting process. IT industry professionals appealed to lawmakers to withdraw the bill before consulting with the industry, before a parliamentary committee.

The director of the Information Technology Law Center, Alex Gakuru, said that the bill partly addressed the concerns of the robotics industry, but did nothing for artificial intelligence.

“This bill will bring about a national disaster, if implemented as proposed, we will need several years to recover. The bill has no policy support […] It will be a very big blow to the artificial intelligence industry.”

Kenya Law School professor Gakuru said.

Industry lobby group Ai Kenya also criticized the bill, and urged the tech industry to unite against it.

“…we can unite and ensure that this bill does not become a reality. The future of Kenya’s technological innovation depends on our collective efforts,”

the organization posted on LinkedIn.

Legislators promised to consider the opposition. “This is a proposed law, we will consult with the stakeholders,” Communication, Information and Innovation Committee chairman, MP John Kiarie said. “We need a comprehensive law that will not stifle innovation, even as we reduce the risks associated with artificial intelligence and robotics technology.”

Kenya has been criticized for taxing the tech industry at the expense of regulation. Under the leadership of President William Ruto, the country imposed several new taxes on the cutting edge of new technologies, including digital assets, but took almost no measures to regulate the industry and protect the public.

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