7 min read

When used correctly, technology has the huge potential to drastically improve standards of living. In this five-part series we take a look at companies around the world using robotics and AI for the betterment of humankind.

Across Africa, the ratio of patients to doctors is incredibly low. As a result, almost one in two Africans lack access to modern health services, and that figure is expected to rise as the population grows.

Companies using robotics and AI in Africa

Credit: Ioannis Oikonomou

These companies show that AI and other innovations have the ability to permeate all areas and society and address some of Africa’s most urgent needs

Yet technology can help. We take a look at a number of companies who are investing in new ways robots and AI can transform the continent for a better tomorrow.

AI predicting thefts and defaults

Company: Vizibiliti Insight

Country: South Africa

Sector: Business

Feature: Using machine learning and big data to solve uniquely South African problems

Cable theft and defaulting tenants are two huge problems in South Africa. Whereas the latter can lead to an unstable housing market, the former can disrupt communication services and put the lives of vulnerable citizens at risk. To combat these issues, Vizibiliti Insight derived a predictive intelligence model based on open and internal datasets to predict events, allowing businesses to put preventive measures in place.

“We are in an age of endlessly available data, some of it useful, plenty of it not. Our goal is to leverage our love of data, technology and algorithms to remove the white noise of irrelevant data, thereby providing sophisticated analysis and a deeper digital understanding.”

—Courtney Bentley, CEO, Vizibiliti Insight

An AI app to save thousands of babies

Company: Ubenwa

Country: Nigeria

Sector: Healthcare

Feature: Healthcare app that uses AI to diagnose child birth asphyxia

Birth asphyxia is one of the top three causes of infant mortality around the world. It can also cause lifelong disabilities such as deafness and cerebral palsy. To tackle the problem, Nigerian-based startup Ubenwa has developed a machine learning system that can provide instant diagnosis of birth asphyxia. The tool is based on 1,400 pre-recorded baby cries and analyses infant cry input by looking at factors such as amplitude and frequency pattern.

“We are still finalizing a hybrid model. But in the meantime, we are planning to make it free for individuals and paid for organizations such as hospitals, clinics, governments, and others.”

Charles Onu, founder and principal innovator, Ubwena (via Quartz)

Machine learning to personalise education

Company: Isazi Consulting

Country: South Africa

Sector: Education

Feature: Teacher-focused tool for a better student experience

ClassMaster by Isazi Consulting is a data-driven tool that helps teachers deliver the best possible education to their students. The idea is that by collecting thousands of data points on every student every week, teachers have the insight into how to better to adjust their teaching strategies. Teachers also receive training via a mobile app. According to the company, the tool is backed by pedagogical theory and advanced AI.

“Ultimately, we wanted to solve some of the continent’s key economic and social challenges. We have built industry-leading products in customer retention, fraud detection, medical imaging, automated dubbing, property value estimation and unstructured content aggregation by leveraging the power of artificial intelligence.”

—Obakeng Moepya, Isazi Consulting (via Entrepeneur Magazine)

Drones delivering medicine and blood

Company: Zipline

Country: Rwanda

Sector: Healthcare

Feature: Drones to deliver blood to transfusion centres in remote areas

Though headquartered in California, Zipline deserves an honourable mention for its unique offering. The team are delivering fresh blood and medicines to hard-to-reach rural areas across Rwanda daily. Zipline drones have already flown around 300,000km in over 4,000 flights since the company began its service in October 2016. They are now branching out to Tanzania.

“Every delivery that you do, a vaccine in the case of Ebola, if you’re trying to deliver food in South Sudan to a village that really needs it, that person in some instances is almost knowingly sacrificing their life to do those deliveries. That’s incredibly noble, but my hope is that technology can make that easier in the future.”

Keller Rinaudo, CEO, Zipline (via Vox)

Credit: Ioannis Oikonomou

Almost one in two Africans lack access to modern health services, and that figure is expected to rise as the population grows. Can technology help?

Companies using robotics and AI in Africa

IoT to optimise beekeeping

Company: Honey Flow Africa

Country: Nigeria

Sector: Agriculture

Feature: IoT to improve honey production and processing

Honey Flow Africa uses IoT to digitise beekeeping. A beehive called ‘Flow Hive’ is used to harvest honey. Sensors monitor the beehive in real time, with conditions such as temperature and humidity tracked alongside alerts of when there’s a swarm or a queenless hive. This data is analysed using AI to find patterns in bee behaviour, including distress and unexplained die-offs.

“We are a team of beekeepers, engineers, scientist and researchers and we’ve studied the problems of beekeeping as it affects beekeepers in Nigeria. We’ve discovered it’s best to leverage technology as the solution to improving beekeeping.”

Joshua Agbomedarho (via Startup Compete)

These companies highlight the fact that by investing in the right technology, AI and other innovations have the ability to permeate all areas of society and address some of Africa’s most urgent needs.