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UJ Technopreneurship Centre shines at international hackathon

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 20 Apr 2021
University of Johannesburg teams, Binary Wolves and Technopreneurs.
University of Johannesburg teams, Binary Wolves and Technopreneurs.

Two teams from the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ’s) Technopreneurship Centre were among the top performers at the international Hacklab 2021 virtual hackathon in Accra, Ghana, earlier this month.

Dubbed one of the biggest annual hackathons in West Africa, the Hacklab 2021 virtual hackathon was organised by the Hacklab Foundation. It brought together over 1 000 participants, including developers, designers, entrepreneurs, policymakers, industry partners and other stakeholders in technology to meet and discuss critical issues and develop tech-enabled solutions for emerging economies.

The theme of the hackathon was “Leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to drive digital transformation in Africa”.

The two teams from the UJ Technopreneurship Centre, named Technopreneurs and Binary Wolves, come up tops in two categories: Technopreneurs won the “Best AI Solution in Big Data” award, while Binary Wolves scooped the “Best AI Solution in Healthcare” award.

Technopreneurs was also declared the second overall winner of Hacklab 2021.

Zetta, a new start-up company in Ghana, emerged as the overall winner after impressing the panel of judges with its AI solution to detect early autism in children.

Ghana-based health tech organisation University Research Co was the third runner-up for its solution aimed at preventing child and maternal deaths.

In total, 43 teams participated in the hackathon, dominated by the teams from West Africa.

Four teams from UJ, consisting of 16 students, participated in the competition.

The students were supervised by Ronny Mabokela, head of the Technopreneurship Centre and lecturer responsible for mentoring and coaching students on ideation and innovation development processes.

“I am delighted that we emerged the best in two very important categories. This was our first participation in an international hackathon since the inception of the Technopreneurship Centre,” says Mabokela.

“The fact that our students were declared the second overall winner shows we are indeed prepared to disrupt the status quo. We are going to learn from the hackathon to develop even more powerful solutions.”

The Technopreneurs team is made up of third year students: Emmanuel Mbuya, Buhle Mpala, Chadrack Mulamba and Eugene Ndlovu. They developed an agricultural, AI-powered solution called Afrismart that uses deep learning algorithms such as convolutional neural networks to detect crop nutrient deficiencies based on a picture of the leaves and recommends a solution to farmers.

Team Binary Wolves members are: Aaron Kibambe, Patience Mokokota, Janice Nsunza and Tumelo Baloyi. They developed the Lesedi AI-powered solution that uses machine learning algorithms to notify emergency services to dispatch an ambulance in real-time. It uses a support vector machine to classify social media tweets and send notifications to the nearest hospital during an emergency.

The two winning teams will receive a full scholarship for the Africa AI Accelerator by Ghana Tech Lab, $520 seed grant to kick-start their start-up, free access to IBM Cloud for one year, SMS credits from Kenya-based mobile solutions firm Africa’s Talking, and items from Vodafone Ghana, among other prizes.

The Technopreneurship Centre is based at UJ’s Johannesburg campus. It fosters collaboration among students and industry partners with regards to building technologies, by involving students in structuring real-life innovative solutions.