UmojaHack Africa 2021 was an unprecedented success, bringing more than 1000 students from 126 universities across Africa to compete on Zindi in a virtual machine learning hackathon on the weekend of 27-28 March. More than $10,000 in prizes were awarded to data science students from 9 African countries, and more than 8500 submissions were made to solve three real-world machine learning challenges on Zindi.

Students from 21 African countries joined the event, representing Algeria, Benin, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

They participated in three different machine learning challenges: a financial resilience prediction challenge, a logistics challenge for African B2B service provider Sendy, and a computational biology challenge using the DeepChain platform developed by InstaDeep. The winning solutions developed by Zindi users will be shared with these organisations and deployed in real-world applications.

Winning words

In winning second place in the Sendy Delivery Rider Response Challenge, Tony Mipawa, a data science student from the University of Dodoma, Tanzania, epitomised the spirit of Zindi and of UmojaHack A year ago, Tony was a data science novice until he participated in Zindi’s first-ever Mentorship Programme in 2020. He has grown in leaps and bounds since then, as evidenced by his prize-winning submission in this hackathon, less than a year later.

“I’m very happy with the outcome,” Tony said at the awards ceremony. “My advice is, whenever there is an opportunity to learn, you should take it. Learning is all about passion; whenever there is an opportunity to learn, put your whole effort into it, do it well. Try to learn from anyone you meet. I would like to thank Zindi for what that mentorship programme gave me.”

Global support

UmojaHack Africa 2021 was sponsored by some leading names in the global and African tech, AI and financial sectors, including InstaDeep, Standard Bank Group, Microsoft, DeepMind, NVIDIA, and Old Mutual. They were integral in making the event a success by offering financial and professional development prizes, contributing their expertise and excitement to the event, and supporting UmojaHack Africa 2021 through their own channels.

“We are incredibly excited about this event spanning over 100 African universities and helping thousands of African students leverage their data science and AI skills to solve African problems,” said Chris Lwanga, Principal Director for Software Partnerships at Microsoft. “At Microsoft, we believe in empowering every organisation and person to do more.”

“Standard Bank is deeply invested in funding and implementing critical data science skills development programmes, such as Zindi’s UmojaHack Africa 2021 hackathon, to position Africa as a serious competitor in the world’s rapidly emerging data-driven sector,” said Adrian Vermooten, Chief Innovation Officer, Standard Bank Group.

According to Celina Lee, CEO of Zindi, “UmojaHack Africa has proven to be a game-changing event, especially when so many young people have been impacted by the global pandemic. This is a chance for students from across the continent to come together to learn, compete, and have fun. UmojaHack is about building skills, creating new machine learning applications to solve problems that really matter while forging new connections among the students as well as with industry. We are incredibly excited to see what the students come up with in just one weekend.”

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