By Chimwemwe Gondwe:
A postgraduate student at the Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST), Samantha Matemba, has won for her project US$5,000 (just over K5 million) from in the Africa Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research Awards 2022.
Matemba, studying a Master of Science degree in Biodiversity Informatics, is doing a research that intends to find the relationship between micro invertebrates, for example dragonflies and snails, that play an important role in the structure, function and quality of fresh water ecosystems in response to changes of a river flow, in particular Ruo River in Mulanje, Malawi.
The awards are a research funding initiative across the African continent by Data Science Africa (DSA) in collaboration with Deep Learning Indaba and Artificial Intelligence for Development in Africa (AI4D Africa) which seeks to strengthen the pipeline of African AI research by increasing funding pathways.
Matemba was overjoyed with the development, saying it was the most humbling moment in her career development.
“Initially, my estimated budget was K6,660,000 but I didn’t know where to get the money. Winning this award builds a good flow towards the most important aspect of a master’s programme, which is research,” she said.
Matemba added that since most research projects are affected by funding challenges, she was forced to apply for the grant after noting that her research project aligned well with the DSA’s goals.
“DSA called for junior researchers (MSc and PhD) in Africa to submit research proposals seeking funding and after seeing the call of applications, I did not hesitate but apply,” she said.
Coordinator of the MSc in Biodiversity Informatics at MUST, Dr Tiwonge Gawa said Matemba’s winning of a research grant demonstrates the quality and relevance of the programme beyond Malawi’s borders.
“No wonder we have foreign students pursuing the programme because it fills a gap that had existed in Malawi, the region and even globally. It also shows that our students are up there with the rest of the world in terms of quality,” said Dr Gawa.
DSA required that competing research projects should have AI or data science component, be informed by sustainable development goals and reach deliverable output by April 2023.