Wangari Maathai ​Impact Award for African Innovators

Wangari Maathai ​Impact Award for African Innovators

Wangari Maathai ​Impact Award for African Innovators

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.
  • The 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).

    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.

    In Honour of Prof. Wangari Muta Maathai

    Professor Wangari Muta Maathai, Africa’s first female Nobel Laureate, is internationally recognised for her contributions to democracy, peace and sustainable development in Kenya and across the greater African collective.

    Born in rural Kenya, she became the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree and following that be appointed to associate professor.

    Alongside her academic career, Professor Maathai was a vociferous environmental and political activist, and was central to Kenya's first multi-party elections in 1992, during which she strove for free and fair elections.

    She went on to serve in the Kenyan government as the Assistant Minister for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources from 2003 to 2007.

    Her deep connection with the environment led her to found a pan-African environmental organisation, the Green Belt Movement (GBM), whose goal was to reduce poverty and promote environmental conservation.

    She was a fierce advocate for women, serving on the National Council of Women of Kenya for 11 years and uplifting the lives of women through her work with the GBM. Her contributions were recognised in 2004 when she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

    She continued her inspirational work, founding the Wangari Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies in partnership with the University of Nairobi, chairing global initiatives to protect African forest regions, and was appointed a United Nations Messenger of Peace on environmental and climate change.

    Wangari Maathai left a lasting impact on our continent and the world, and through this award we form a continuity of her spirit, and recognise the next generation of impactful Africans.

    Next Deadline

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

    For more information and application details, see; Wangari Maathai ​Impact Award for African Innovators

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