UmojaHack Africa 2022 brought together Africa’s best young talent in data science to learn, build and grow

2022 is the year UmojaHack Africa grew up.

From a chaotic start in 2020 amidst a new global pandemic, UmojaHack Africa has grown and developed into the leading hackathon in the African data science space. With $10 000 in prizes for winners across 30 countries, and 1200 students from more than 300 universities participating over the weekend, Zindi is setting the tone for a new era in African data science.

The weekend saw an incredible crop of African and global leaders in the tech and AI space step forward to support and encourage Zindians as they battled their way through three hackathons — classifying faults generated by air quality sensors, predicting the value of future short-term insurance claims, or predicting how eight commercial antivenoms would respond to venom from different snakes.

“Zindi’s UmojaHack Africa hackathon is a place where diamonds are crafted,” said Alex Tsado, founder of Alliance4ai. “I believe that you and your team are the next crop of diamonds. Show us what you can do — today is your day!”

Dan Zigmond, Director of Special Projects at Apple and Zindi board member, offered similar encouragement: “I’m so excited to see data science taking off in Africa, and I’m proud to help Zindi play a part in discovering new data science talent across the continent. Nothing is more valuable in preparing yourself for a data science career than real world experience of the sort you can get in a hackathon like UmojaHack Africa. I can’t wait to see what you create!”

Zindi is grateful to our sponsors Microsoft, Absa, InstaDeep, H2O.ai, Explore Data Science Academy, NVIDIA, and DeepMind.

We asked a few Zindi ambassadors to tell us more about their experience of the hackathon at their local universities.

Ruth Nduta, Zindi Ambassador in Kenya

The phrase “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” resonates with me when I think about my contributions to growing the data science community in Africa. We are currently presented with so many opportunities to learn and grow our skills and unless we are ready to grab them, they’ll vanish right before our eyes.

This was my opening address to the 15 participants convening at Moringa School to take part in UmojaHack Africa 2022. The students’ faces shone with a thirst for knowledge that morning, yearning to get the green light and start hacking. We had a team of 3 and 8 other individuals taking part in the beginner challenge, while 4 other individuals had chosen the intermediate challenge.

Not so fast though — we had a couple of beginners in our midst and we weren’t about to let them feel left out. The first three hours of the hack involved intense discussions, making sure everyone understood what each line of code from the starter notebook meant. The technical session running concurrently on Zoom gave us nuggets on handling data for both the beginner and intermediate competitions. The speakers throughout the event had tons of wisdom to share, and I personally enjoyed most of the spotlight talks.

Feature Engineering was the most intense stage of the competition for our group. Creating and discarding features while observing the model accuracy on the leaderboard was quite strenuous — thank God for the coffee! The teams employed ensembling and boosting algorithms to improve their classification models, conducting cross-validation all the while to ensure the best parameters. For learning purposes, we integrated deep learning using Keras to check how well it would perform.

At the end of the hack, our first team made it to position 34 on the leaderboard for the beginner challenge, and we found ourselves at 11th for the intermediate challenge. Proud of our sweat and grit, we headed home looking forward to meeting again soon for another exciting contest.

Robert Selemani, Zindi Ambassador in Zimbabwe

UmojaHack Africa 2022 was bigger and better across the whole continent this year, and Zimbabwe was no exception. I took part during this event both as a participant and as an organiser. What an experience! It was my very first time organising a physical event for a hackathon; as a result it came with a lot of excitement, and many take-home lessons.

I remember during UmojaHack Africa 2021, I took part only the first day, and lost concentration and focus after that. In other words, I quickly got tired as I was tuning in virtually while alone at home. This time around, taking part in an in-person hackathon proved to yield a totally different and immersive experience. It really felt so real and I couldn’t help but feel more involved. The excitement was irresistible, and that meant I just couldn’t give up. The experience and the community gathered around me helped me maintain positive energy until the very final hour, and my interactions with fellow participants made the experience incomparably fun. Some would crack jokes which would see us all laughing while we hack, while the resilience by others would give me a reason not to give up. It was indeed an unforgettable experience.

It was challenging as an ambassador to try to balance organising events in two different cities, while at the same time preparing myself as a participant. But the experience made all the efforts and hard work worthwhile. In the end, my team couldn’t crack the top three, but the 6th position we managed to scoop on the leaderboard was really a great achievement for us as a team, and for Zimbabwe as a country. Our team even took the Zimbabwe Country Prize, and I managed to organise a successful physical event too. It was a great weekend full of lifelong memories, and most importantly, lessons.

Winners

African Snake Anti-venom Binding Challenge (ADVANCED)

  1. Azer Ksouri — ASSAZZIN (Tunisia, SUP’COM)
  2. Mokhtar Mami — mo5mami (Tunisia, INSAT)
  3. Daniel Bruintjies — DanielBruintjies (South Africa, EDSA)

Monthly Insurance Claim Prediction Challenge (INTERMEDIATE)

  1. Lawrence Moruye — Lawrence_Moruye (Senegal, AIMS)
  2. Victor Olufemi, Paul Okewunmi, Oluwadunsin Fajemila — Team Solo (Nigeria, University of Lagos)
  3. Eniola Olaleye, Saheed Azeez, Joseph Olaide — Enemy of Syntax (Nigeria, Obafemi Awolowo University)

Faulty Air Quality Sensor Challenge (BEGINNER)

  1. Maryam Afolabi — Mdda (Nigeria, University of Abuja)
  2. Vincent Njonge — Pynux (Kenya, JKUAT)
  3. Khaireddine Medhioub — kh01 (Tunisia, Tunisia Polytechnic School)

You can see the full list of winners here: https://umojahack.africa/winners/

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Zindi

Zindi

Zindi hosts the largest community of African data scientists, working to solve the world’s most pressing challenges using machine learning and AI.