Africa’s First Virtual Inter-university Artificial Intelligence (AI) Hackathon

Today, March 21st 2020, with social distancing in place due to serious concerns around the spread of coronavirus, we partnered with Zindi to demonstrate the power of their online platform to crowd-solve challenges in health, education, environmental conservation, and business through their UmojaHack Africa competition.

This is the first-ever virtual inter-university artificial intelligence (AI) hackathon for students across Africa. Over 70 universities from 17 African countries, with an estimated 2500 students, registered to participate in the hackathon taking place on Zindi’s online platform.

“Alliance4ai is proud to see the excitement amongst Africa’s youth to innovate and solve tough problems affecting their communities” said Alliance4ai’s founder, Alexander Tsado. “We welcome all participants to draw inspiration from other Africans like them on our list of Africa’s top AI projects, and leverage the platform to continue their journey towards becoming top data scientists and leaders of change that matters.”

As the community of Africa’s AI communities, it was important for us at Alliance4ai to be a sponsor of this historic event to channel our continental reach to source data scientists from all corners of the continent, and then as one voice, tell the story of the continent’s performance at the global stage.

The top-performing team in each of three challenges will be awarded prize money of $1000 USD, $600 USD, and $400 USD respectively. Teams placing 2nd and 3rd in each category will be awarded learning opportunities offered by our group of sponsors. The associated university will receive $7500 (1st category), $5000 (2nd category), and $2500 (3rd category).

These teams of data scientists will be working to find the best solution for three real world challenges:

  1. Hotspot Fire Prediction Challenge
    Teams are challenged to figure out the dynamics of where and when fires occur in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country dealing with the health and environmental impacts of slash and burn agriculture. They must also predict how these dynamics will play out in the future, under different climatic conditions. The challenge is to build a model capable of predicting the burned area in different locations.
  2. SAEON Marine Invertebrate Classification Challenge
    Teams are challenged to develop an automated image classification solution for photographs of marine invertebrate taken by researchers in South Africa. The solutions will reduce the resources needed to manually process photos and allow researchers to identify changes in marine life faster and more efficiently, to better monitor and understanding climate change impacts.
  3. Xente Purchase Prediction Challenge Teams are challenged to create a machine learning model to predict purchase behaviour of customers on the Xente app, based on their purchase history.  Xente is a Ugandan e-commerce start-up that makes it easy for consumers to make payments, get loans, and shop using simply a mobile phone. The resulting models and solutions will enable target marketing and create a better customers experience.

The machine learning solutions developed during UmojaHack Africa and the skills developed by the participants promise large-scale improvements to people’s lives, and it is no surprise that top brands have got in on the action to partner with Zindi to sponsor this exciting venture. Sponsors of the event are Microsoft, African Bank, Google Research, Liquid Telecom, Instadeep, the Field Institute and our group, Alliance4ai.

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