The Maathai Impact Award encourages and recognises work by African innovators that shows impactful application of machine learning and artificial intelligence.

This award reinforces the legacy of Wangari Maathai in acknowledging the capacity of individuals to be a positive force for change: by recognising ideas and initiatives that demonstrate that each of us, no matter how small, can make a difference.

The award will be presented at the annual Deep Learning Indaba in August 2019. We welcome applications from individuals, teams and organisations themselves, or nominations by third parties.

In partnership with Black in AI, the winner will receive a fully-sponsored trip to attend NeurIPS 2019 and the Black in AI workshop, co-located with NeurIPS, in December 2019. The winner will also be invited to speak at the Deep Learning Indaba in Nairobi in August 2019, and receive a cash prize of KES 70,000.


  • The award is open to individuals, teams, or organisations.
  • <liThe Awards Committee considers impactful work to be broadly defined as any work — technological, social, or economic — that has had, or has the potential to positively transform our African societies. There are many ways to have impact, and we hope that those who will submit nominations/self-nominations will be generous and creative in their judgement of the term ‘innovation’.

  • Examples could include:
    • A research paper that shows important results using machine learning to solve important problems that address food security.
    • The work of an African startup using machine learning, whose work is set to have positive impact or demonstrate technical excellence in their focus area.
    • An individual who has shown a track record of empowering individuals and groups affected or involved with machine learning.
    • Government agencies or individuals contributing positively to the policy and society conversations around machine learning and artificial intelligence.
    • A non-profit organisation that empowers innovators through skills development or mentoring.
    • An established business that has deployed machine learning in an innovative way to positively impact their business and customer experience.
  • Nominations can be sent by anyone, including individuals and organisations themselves.
  • Nominations are welcomed from any African country.
  • All supporting letters should be in English (or a translation supplied).

Next Deadline

12 April 2019, 11:59pm, Central African Time (CAT).

Selection Criteria

Nominations will be reviewed to assess the breadth of potential impact they have had, their role in strengthening African machine learning and artificial intelligence, and the strength of the supporting letters.


  • Nomination is made by completing an online nomination form, which includes details of the impactful work and the necessary contact details. For any teams/organisations, a principal contact should be listed.
  • Two supporting letters that describes the nature of the impactful work, why it is considered to be impactful, and in what way the nominated candidate(s)/organisation strengthens African machine learning, and any other relevant information. Letter writers can be from anyone familiar with the impactful work. Letters should be 600 words at most, and be submitted using the online form.

Further Questions and Contact

If you have any questions, or need clarification on any part of this call for nominations, don’t hesitate to contact us at