To the Future: After the 2023 Deep Learning Indaba

This post are my remarks on the October 2023 Sauti Yetu Newsletter, the Official Deep Learning Indaba Newsletter [Subscribe http://eepurl.com/ii4Llb].

Before the rest of this intro, I would like us all to thank all the organisers, volunteers and participants of the 2023 Deep Learning Indaba in Ghana. You made it the experience that it was.

Now, to the thoughts post the Indaba to inspire the next year.

It is time to stretch and test our strengths

I'll start with my thesis, which revolves around our collective potential. The time has come for us to set our sights on the stars, to push the boundaries and test the limits of our capabilities. We've already achieved what initially seemed impossible – the establishment of a thriving Pan-African AI community over the past decade. We've witnessed the realisation of many of our dreams, but now, it's time to take our ambitions to the next level, and beyond.

We need to realise Wakanda*. Not because it is easy, but because it is hard! *In the next 5-10 years.

This statement encapsulates two fundamental aspects. Firstly, we must set an audacious and somewhat intimidating objective, a "Moonshot," that necessitates us collectively pushing beyond our boundaries to achieve [1]. This goal should reflect the future we've envisioned, embracing the ideals of AfricanFuturism[2]  that complement and extend beyond the Afrofuturistic[3] Wakanda. Our aim is to position Africans at the forefront of shaping AI for our own benefit. This aligns with the mission of Deep Learning Indaba - “We work towards the goal of Africans being not only observers and receivers of the ongoing advances in AI, but active shapers and owners of these technological advances.”

We shouldn't limit ourselves to thinking in terms of one step; instead, we must envision 10, 100, or more steps that collectively lead us toward this goal. There are already inspiring examples of such projects across the continent. Now, we need to realise these initiatives in diverse geographical areas, languages, and domains. The specifics of what the stretch is will vary based on individuals, countries, regions, and communities.

My earnest wish is for you to be ready to respond when the call arises (and it will), and to aim for the stars. Together, we can embark on this incredible journey of shaping a brighter and technologically empowered future for Africa.

The Indaba, the ultimate African AI experience

My second thought is on the inspiring Indaba experience, this year was no different. One of my best memories was learning from the community. When we created the Indaba, I personally underestimated what would happen in 5-6 years. We experienced the rising seniority of many in the community, awards all around, international impact and recognition, innovations in research (the poster sessions are always worth experiencing) and also our new experiment towards publications (the short papers will be available in the next few weeks for all to experience and read). A colleague, Jade Abott, summed up a feeling many are starting to have in the Indaba community in this tweet.

Years ago, my goal was for every day to feel closer to life during the @DeepIndaba . Now, we've made the mission and dream part of daily life ❤️🌍 We're living it. My dream is for the entire Indaba community to be able to have this soon - source.

https://x.com/alienelf/status/1703712458194424010?s=20

That summed up not only how the space allows us to create the dreams during the week, but how those dreams shape the reality across our lives beyond. Keep building!!!

Telling our stories

My final thought is about sharing our stories. We should tell our stories to give people a glimpse of what's happening in Africa. Africa is diverse and has many unique stories to tell. Share your experiences related to your work, the Indaba, or the African AI communities. It's a great way for us as a group to show our influence in what's happening. Let's share our stories and highlight the creativity and innovation in African AI together.

-Vukosi Marivate, Trustee, Co-founder  and Member of the Executive Board for the Deep Learning Indaba. Co-founder of Masakhane NLP and Lelapa AI (@vukosi).

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