Masirouna: African AI Deciding its Destiny

Masirouna: African AI Deciding its Destiny

In a few weeks, the African AI community will gather again for the 2022 Deep Learning Indaba. We’ve come a long way since the very first Indaba in 2017. At that first Indaba we dreamt of a community of people–all curious, innovative and with unique ideas– who would shape the destiny of their continent. That dream is now more of a reality, but how we shape our shared destiny is one we still think about every day. So we kick off this year’s Indaba, grateful and excited to see each other again, and with the theme of #masirouna, meaning Our Destiny in the language of Arabic and of Tunisia and North Africa, who are our hosts for this year. So this year we’ll be asking everyone to think about our shared destiny, and the work and actions we must still do together.

This year’s Indaba has all the usual elements everyone has come to expect: to learn about the foundations of Machine Learning, to be challenged by leading thinkers, to showcase African research in all its stages, and to drive forward new workshops at the cutting edge of science, technology and innovation. And there will of course be the fun that defines the spirit of the Indaba week: the joy of a community meeting each other from across borders, hemispheres and languages; and the opportunity to strengthen African Machine learning, and the ways we will shape our destiny. #masirouna

We’ve been hard at work over many months to bring together a programme that meets the needs of a broad community; the indaba will welcome 500 participants this year. This year’s programme, posters, and workshops are online to see. While organising any event is never easy, our organising faces more complexity and challenges now than ever before. We rose to the challenge by having a structured set of organising committees, and we cannot fully express our gratitude for the effort and work of this group of volunteers. We also have a wide set of sponsors and donors, all of whom continue to demonstrate commitment to AI communities in expansive ways, and are providing genuinely meaningful support towards addressing challenges of racial equity, and diverse and inclusive participation in global AI research and development. 

We have met each year at a single Indaba, first in Johannesburg, then in Stellenbosch, then in Nairobi, and now in Tunis. But we also met multiple  times in 36 countries across our continent at IndabaX meetings, which could not be held back even by a pandemic. We coached and guided each other to reach new levels of excellence through a busy mentorship programme. We supported each other’s research through a grant and funding programme, and through new awards. The Indaba became a platform to create new organisations and community groups. And then we worked with as many of our cousin organisations to do more together. Taking a small part in shaping our destiny isn’t easy, and still at times seems an impossible dream. But an Indaba is all about dreaming, and destiny.

We are excited to see everyone in Tunis in a few weeks. To get ready, here is a walk down memory lane from our previous Indabas. Maybe this is one way to see #masirouna, Our Destiny, unfolding. 

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