On the 10th of September this year (2017), we took our first uncertain step through a doorway. For all the months prior, starting in February, we operated in the realm of imagination, of planning, of spreadsheets and budgets, driven by a mission to ‘Strengthen African Machine Learning’. Crossing the threshold that Sunday afternoon, we entered an environment that was everything we had hoped for. We had seen the creation of a new community, one united not by historical injustices, but by a shared commitment to science and learning, and the potential it has to transform our societies for the better. We executed a technical programme of sharing, teaching and debate around the state-of-the-art in modern machine learning, whose mastery is essential to realising the vision of a transformed and prosperous continent. And we saw Africans, from across the continent and in all its diversity, represented and included.
We pose a question to you: At the leading machine learning venue, the annual Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS), how many accepted papers in 2016 came from research groups on the African continent? Or to be more general, how many accepted papers have at least one of its authors from a research institution in Africa? The answer: zero. And what for the South American continent? Similarly. Zero.