Reem Elmahdi believes in the power of data science and community building to transform Sudan

“In Sudan I want people and the government to focus their attention on data science. We have data that can be digitised and used for predictions and to solve problems. Companies should put their community service money into data science education, in order to help prepare countries like Sudan for a technological future.”

Reem Elmahdi is Zindi’s country ambassador for Sudan, who champions data science in her country through teaching, networking and event planning.

Her journey so far

“I learned to love data science during my Masters degree, because it was quite challenging and different.”

She began her career in the field by studying at the Computer and Information System college at Sudan University. After graduation, she worked as a researcher in the same department, before joining a software company in Khartoum, the area in which she is currently based. Following this, she joined the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in South Africa as a Master’s student.

“My time in South Africa is where I started understanding how to connect the sciences to technology. For example, how one can use computer science to develop physical models for cosmology or astronomy.”

She has also tutored courses such as data analytics and statistics at AIMS South Africa.

“I still love tutoring. If money and time weren’t an issue for me, I would love to teach. It’s very nice to understand something and try to teach it to someone else. You deepen your understanding as well as deliver it to someone else which helps them to grow.”

The power of networks

Reem learned about Zindi through a Deep Learning Indaba event in Kenya in 2019, in which she participated in one of the competitions. From there, she worked with them as an event planner, most notably helping to organise UmojaHack Africa in Sudan, in March this year.

“Together with (fellow Sudanese ambassador) Moayad Elamin, I worked with the universities, speaking to different lecturers and encouraging students to spread knowledge about UmojaHack Africa 2021. We were able to successfully register six universities and have multiple teams from all of them.”

This is a huge achievement, considering no Sudanese universities have participated in Zindi events before now.

Sudanese data students compete at the UmojaHack Africa 2021 event at Al-Fashir University in Western Sudan

She is also a part of a Sudanese association that focuses on strengthening Sudanese data science. She has published articles with this group in her local language of Arabic, writing articles in Sudani dialect to make it easy to understand. You can read the Sudani Science blog here.

She loves working with Zindi and the other data science communities she is a part of, because this work strengthens data science in Africa.

“Most of the initiatives I have joined try to promote certain companies or export to talent overseas, whereas Zindi identifies problems in Africa and allows and encourages Africans to solve it.”

Reem believes that for problems relating to a country, that country’s members are the first to understand the struggles and issues, and are best placed to solve it, compared to someone from outside who may have a different perspective.

She also loves that Zindi and other communities create a platform for people from African countries to connect to each other.

Other pursuits

Reem believes that an interest in analytics and data science should not hold an individual back from other creative pursuits. As if data science pursuits weren’t keeping her busy enough, she recently started a small beauty salon business in her local neighbourhood along with six female friends.

She currently does freelance work for data entry consultation and machine learning. Beyond that, she is excited to begin working on her own podcast.

“My podcast will be for telling the stories of others, and a platform for discussing Sudanese issues, goals, and life interests.”

Reem maintains that we all have our ups and downs but must keep motivated through it all. Her advice to readers is to surround yourself with people who have the same drive or goal, and network with those who are like-minded but can open you up to new experiences and ideas.

You can connect with Reem on LinkedIn.

Zindi is a competition platform hosting a community of data scientists dedicated to solving Africa’s toughest challenges through machine learning & AI