Media release

2022 Africa Data Science Intensive Programme projects find sustainable solutions to real world problems

25 May 2022

An exciting project involving a plant disease classifier and detection tool was the winning presentation at the third Africa Data Science Intensive (DSI) Programme which took place from 9 to 13 May 2022 in Paarl.

The Africa Data Science Intensive (DSI) Programme commenced in January 2022 with 20 participants – 45% of whom were women – and uses real-world problems to give participants hands-on knowledge of the latest algorithms and techniques in data science and artificial intelligence. It also focuses on deep insights on industry trends, network building and practical team skills used in business to facilitate transitioning to a data science role in industry, academia or through entrepreneurship.

Africa DSI 2022 participants and tutors with Prof. Bruce Bassett, founder and lead organiser of the Africa DSI programme. Image credit: SARAO.

The 20 participants were selected from 2268 applicants, representing 11 African countries which were hosted by the UK – South Africa Newton Fund as part of the Development in Africa with Radio Astronomy (DARA) Big Data project. Other sponsors included AWS and Nvidia. The DSI is organised in collaboration with AIMS South Africa and Grailabs.

The winning presentation, the culmination of over four months of completing four modules in Regression; Optimisation and Forecasting; Natural Language Processing; and the participants’ own topic for their presentation projects, was presented by Christopher Mbeva from Kenya. Mbeva, also a keen farmer, presented the work he had done in creating an online plant disease classifier and detection tool where users can upload photographs and videos and receive advice and information on how to manage any problems detected.

“The rigorous selection procedure, which included online assessments and interviews, emphasised gender and geographic diversity with the goal of giving the brightest and most talented minds a chance to undertake a life-changing program that will equip them with the key skills for success in data science and artificial intelligence,” said Prof. Bruce Bassett, founder and lead organiser of the Africa DSI programme.

Sitwala Mundia, top DSI participant with Khaya Sishuba, Director of Bilateral Relations at the Department of Science and Innovation. Image credit: SARAO.

Sitwala Mundia from Zambia was the overall top participant for the Africa DSI 2022 Programme, with Rhodasi Mwale, also from Zambia in second place and Amy Rouillard from South Africa in third place.

Other topics included an automated school attendance system; retail data analysis and customer segmentation and growth analysis; bioacoustics; object detection of solar radio bursts; data analytics for improving blood service management; plant disease classification and detection; cattle activity recognition and tracking; galaxy image classifier; computer vision applied to reptile classification; forecast and optimisation for renewable energy scheduling; modelling influenza incidence; and fraud detection.

Khaya Sishuba, Director: Bilateral Relations at the Department of Science and Innovation expressed how interesting it was to see how the projects selected by the participants have an impact on real life. “This program really talks to the heart of the human capital development efforts being conducted by the Department. I am grateful for the work that is being done and for our strategic partners.” Speaking to the participants, Sishuba added: “Your impact will be great, the network you have created and the learnings you have achieved will go a long way to generate joint projects and interactions in the future across the African continent.”

The invited judges included Dr Rob Adam, Managing Director of the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO); Prof. Barry Green, Director of AIMS South Africa; William Galloway, Chief of Intelligence at Voxcroft; and Dries Cronjé, CEO and Founder of Deep Learning Café.

“It is exciting to see the diversity of projects presented that are relevant to the participants’ local communities and how these can positively impact lives in Africa,” said Carla Sharpe, Africa Programme Manager at SARAO.

The Africa DSI 2022 participants at the in-person workshop in Paarl. Image credit: SARAO.

The participants also conveyed their gratitude. “This experience was stupendous. It forced us all to grow in every area of our lives. For the last four months my whole life was DSI. Thank you to all the organisers and tutors,” said Nancy Armah from Ghana.

Arnold Kgabi from Botswana also added his thanks: “The relationships and partnerships found here will help us make a real difference. This program changes lives and it would be great to see it continue and reach out to more people.”

Besides representation from SARAO and the Department of Science and Innovation, lecturers and judges for the course came from all over the world including organisations such as the University of Manchester, Airbnb, Cambridge University, IBM, Nvidia, Netflix as well as African start-ups and companies such as Nosible, Optimum and VoxCroft Analytics.

For more information contact:

Dr Bonita de Swardt
Programme Manager: Strategic Partnerships for Human Capital Development
Email: bonita@sarao.ac.za