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Wednesday, Jul 24, 2024
Mugglehead Magazine
Alternative investment news based in Vancouver, B.C.

AI and Autonomy

Nigeria makes waves in the AI space with government-backed startup Awarri

The African nation aims to use its LLM to increase the prevalence of Nigerian languages in world AI systems

Nigeria makes waves in the AI space with government-backed startup Awarri
Employees hardly-workin last week. Photo credit: Awarri

Nigeria’s government has chosen to fund an AI startup that will help increase the prevalence of domestic dialects in large language model (LLM) systems throughout the globe. It may be hard to believe, but more than 500 different languages are spoken in the northwest African nation.

Nigeria’s communications and digital economy minister, Bosun Tijani, revealed that the country would create its own LLM earlier this year with help from the startup in discussion: Awarri. A partnership between the Nigerian AI company and a series of tech agencies makes this possible. Namely, Nigeria’s National Centre for AI and Robotics, the state’s National IT development agency and New York’s non-profit

Awarri was founded in 2019 and just opened up a new AI research lab last year. Its mission is to make Nigeria and Africa a more prominent influence in the artificial intelligence sector.

Although many different Indigenous tongues are spoken in the nation, this language model will focus on a handful of them. The five most prevalent are Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, Ibibio and Pidgin. English with a Nigerian accent is also a focus, while more will be considered in the future.

“Awarri is a little-known entity, but so was OpenAI about two years ago,” Ehia Erhaboh, a representative from the Lagos-based consulting firm AI in Nigeria, told the technology publication Rest of World.

Thus far, anonymous investors have financed the startup through a pre-seed funding round. A platform called LangEasy was launched by Awarri this April that enables anyone with a smartphone to help train the company’s first LLM through voice and text contributions. This first version will be trained with 24,000 hours of audio content, co-founder Eniola Edun says.

“The launch will enable us to capture entirely new data sets in indigenous Nigerian languages,” chief executive Silas Adekunle said at the end of April, “allowing us as a nation to build AI tools with a deep understanding of Nigeria’s cultural and linguistic nuances.”

Read more: Verses announces Genius public beta preview and webinar June 20

Read more: Verses AI onboards chief product officer in push for AI product Genius

Awarri trains over 100 young Nigerians in AI

The tech company hired a large group of youth last fall who had received tech and data science training at Lagos’s SAIL Innovation Lab. They have been learning the ins and outs of the emerging technology and its multi-billion dollar industry.

“Today, we stand on the precipice of the fourth Industrial Revolution, a realm characterized by artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, biotechnology, and automation,” Nigerian Senator Mukhail Adetokunbo Abiru said in November. “This revolution promises unprecedented opportunities for Nigeria and Africa and it is incumbent upon us to seize this moment.”

Abiru, a Nigerian politician and banker, says the initiative has helped empower young Nigerians.

“These programs have now evolved to offer job prospects through our esteemed partner organizations,” he added.

The name Awarri comes from the Yoruba word meaning “seek and find.” Awarri says its name embodies a vision where native intelligence meets the cutting edge of technology in the AI field.

Certain Canadian companies like Verses AI Inc. (CBOE: VERS) (OTCQB: VRSSF) have been taking a more holistic approach to AI development too. Rather than “native intelligence,” Verses has created an AI program called Genius that learns from studying biological processes in nature.


Verses AI is a sponsor of Mugglehead news coverage 


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