Zindi attracts 1000 students across Africa to build AI models for climate change


Zindi, the network for data scientists hosted UmojaHack Africa 2023, a 2-day event for data scientists that aims to solve Africa’s toughest challenges through machine learning on 18-19 March 2023 bringing together over 1000 students from 345 universities in 36 countries to build machine learning models for climate change.

The UmojaHack Africa 2023 was the largest pan-African inter-university machine learning hackathon, with more than 1000 students participating. The 2-day event was sponsored by:  Mara, DeepMind, Kaggle, MPOWER Financing, African Energy Chamber, and InstaDeep among others.

In a statement, Celina Lee, CEO and co-founder of Zindi, said: “With the world facing a dramatic shortage of data talent in the next 5-10 years, UmojaHack Africa serves a critical global need in unearthing and upskilling emerging data talent from new markets. We are thrilled with the turnout and enthusiasm of the students who participated in UmojaHack Africa 2023 this year, and look forward to seeing these rising stars develop into successful professionals on the Zindi platform.”

Over 1000 students participated from dorm rooms, computer labs and student hubs across the continent. They worked night and day across four timezones and 36 different countries, including South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt and many more. The most popular challenge was to use machine learning to predict carbon emissions on the African continent, while other challenges focused on cryptocurrency modeling, and solving a Rubik’s Cube using reinforcement learning, one of the advanced AI approaches behind ChatGPT.

The winners of each challenge are:  For the Rubik’s Cube Reinforcement Learning Challenge, the winners were Akram Badreddine Laissaoui and Nazim Bendib from École Nationale Supérieure d’Informatique (ENSI), Algeria. For the Cryptojacking Detection Challenge, the winners were Wiem Khlifi, Malek Sahlia, and Firas Jaadari from École Nationale des Sciences de l’Informatique (ENSI), Tunisia. And for the Carbon Dioxide Prediction Challenge, the winner was Stephen Kolesh, from Multimedia University (MMU), Kenya.

Students won prizes of cash and online learning licenses amounting to more than $10 000. Sponsors for the event included Mara, DeepMind, Kaggle, MPOWER Financing, African Energy Chamber, and InstaDeep, who gave expert advice and shared datasets to make the event a success.

Zindi has grown the network of participating universities to almost 350 higher education institutions, academies, technical colleges, and bootcamps across the continent – no other event brings together more educational institutions in Africa. This includes some of the leading organisations on the continent, such as AIMS, University of Cape Town, Makerere University, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, and Cairo University, among many others.

Avishkar Boopchand, Senior Research Engineer at DeepMind, addressed participants on the day: “We need Africans to build African solutions to African problems. I’m really excited by the young, talented, and enthusiastic population on the continent. We’re not encumbered by old technology and an aging population; we can leapfrog the developed world, learn from their mistakes and leverage tech innovation to solve problems and drive growth. Our core strength is our strong communities – organisations like Zindi, UmojaHack Africa, Masakhane, Deep Learning Indaba, SisonkeBiotik, and Data Scientists Network (DSN), to name a few. UmojaHack Africa is a chance for students to become part of an extremely powerful, continent-wide community of like-minded people that will shape the future of the continent.”

Zindi was established in Cape Town in 2018, with the aim of making data science and artificial intelligence (AI) skills accessible to companies on the African continent. With a network of 60 000 data scientists registered on the platform, from more than 180 countries around the world.

This year’s partners for the event included: Alliance4ai, Black Sisters in STEM, Data Science Zimbabwe, Data Scientist Network, Eloquent Data, GIZ FAIR Forward, Women in AI Global, Women in AI South Africa, Data Community Africa, NACOSS, African Business, and AI Media.