1200 African students deliver 11000 machine learning solutions

Zindi Data Scientists
Zindi Data Scientists

On the weekend of 19-20 March, Zindi, host of the largest community of data scientists across Africa, held UmojaHack Africa 2022.

The third installation of Africa’s biggest inter-university hackathon saw over 1 200 participants from 325 universities across 30 countries deliver more than 11 000 machine learning solutions to real-life challenges. Along with their sponsors and partners, Zindi awarded prizes worth USD10 000 to the talented students who participated.

“We are thrilled with how the event went,” says Zindi CEO Lee. “From the excitement and engagement of communities across Africa to the insights and wisdom shared by our incredible speakers, and the amazing support from our sponsors, UmojaHack Africa 2022 was a weekend that will leave a lasting impact in the African data science space, and with all our participants.”

A major highlight of the event was the incredible group of speakers from the African and global data sector; speakers like Dan Zigmond from Apple, Karim Beguir from InstaDeep, and Moustapha Cisse from Google AI Research. They shared insights into everything from the role of data science in the finance sector, to the ways machine learning can enhance and simplify everyday tasks. Students also resonated with Kate Kallot from NVIDIA, Gavin Cope from Absa, and Bayo Adekanbi from DSN, but all of the speakers had advice and words of encouragement that the students took to heart. The incredible master of ceremonies Sam Masikini (Zindi ambassador for Malawi and AI innovator in his own right) kept the event moving forward and the crowds entertained with his high energy performance.

“Microsoft, through the Africa Transformation Office, is intent on empowering the digital skilling journeys of our youth,” says Yacine Barro Bourgault, Enablement Lead at Microsoft Africa Transformation Office, and a sponsor of UmojaHack Africa 2022.  “It was thrilling to see the energy and passion of our talented young students, creating dynamic solutions to real-life challenges. Bridging the digital skills gap in Africa is vital to the future success of the continent. Technology is a critical enabler of the transformation that will unfold across the continent in the coming decade, which is why Microsoft is a committed partner in this journey.”

The hackathon saw participants from 30 countries battle it out on the Zindi leaderboard over three categories – beginner, intermediate, and advanced. The challenge in the beginner category focused on classifying faults generated by air quality sensors. Winners here included Tunisia’s Khaireddine Medhioub, who placed third; Kenya’s Vincent Njonge, who placed second; and Nigeria’s Maryam Afolabi, who finished in first place. Nigerian students dominated the intermediate category, which asked students to predict the value of future short-term insurance claims. Working in teams, Nigeria’s Eniola Olaleye, Saheed Azeez, and Joseph Olaide placed third. Victor Olufemi, Paul Okewunmi, and Oluwadunsin Fajemila placed second. Senegal’s Lawrence Moruye came out on top, finishing in first place in this category.

In the final and most advanced challenge, students had to predict how eight commercial antivenoms would respond to venom from different snakes. In this category, South Africa’s Daniel Bruintjies placed third, and Tunisia’s Mokhtar Mami and Azer Ksouri placed second and first, respectively.

There was also a prize awarded for the winning student from each country. Zindi would like to congratulate each student, and especially the category winners, for their skills and dedication on the weekend.

Next month, Zindi’s sponsors, clients, partners, as well as other companies, will connect with Africa’s up-and-coming data talent as identified by the competition at a data sector career day hosted by Zindi. On the day, recruiters will have a chance to share insights into their companies, followed by break-out sessions where students and business leaders can chat in a more informal setting. This will be supported by exclusive access to Zindi’s curated database of data science profiles. Sponsors of the two events include Microsoft, Absa, Instadeep, DeepMind, NVIDIA, H2O.ai, and Explore Data Science Academy.

“Zindi’s mission is to make AI accessible,” concludes Lee. “And this starts with building capacity in data science and machine learning across Africa. As we build the biggest professional network for data science, it’s important to remember why we do what we do. This annual hackathon and our upcoming career day provide opportunities for us to empower communities and users all over Africa to improve their careers, and their lives, through Zindi.”



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