It is now at least seven years since the first seeds for the Deep Learning Indaba were planted. I have often wondered what the causal factors are behind the phenomenal growth and impact of the Deep Learning Indaba community. There are communities and teaching events in two thirds of the countries in Africa now. Our large annual gathering is described by external sources as the ‘premier artificial intelligence and machine learning gathering in Africa’. There are research collaborations that span our beautiful continent. Why does it work? What are the secret ingredients of our recipe?

As I look across Africa, I see a common factor that is shared by all active and inclusive communities. It is this. You will always find volunteers who work extra hours for the sake of a goal that is bigger than themselves. They are the teams who organise events, coordinate activities, cry for a community’s losses and celebrate each other’s successes. They know how to stretch a budget. They build infrastructure and a machine learning community, brick by brick and layer by layer. The Deep Learning Indaba is a 100% volunteer-driven grassroots movement. No one gets paid anything for their contributions. Not a single person. It is a business model that is not taught in school. But that is our secret sauce! You are our secret sauce.

Many of the poorest countries in the world are in Africa. We don’t have the same resources as other parts of the world. This is a challenge, but it also presents an unprecedented opportunity to do pioneering work. Sir Ernest Rutherford is quoted to have said “We haven’t got the money, so we’ve got to think”. As you read this newsletter, we’d like to invite you to think as far outside the box as you’ve ever thought!

-Ulrich Paquet, Co-founder of the Deep Learning Indaba. April 2023.