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AI Expo Africa, Wesgro, and Zindi launch the Deepfake Africa Challenge

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AI Expo Africa, in partnership with Wesgro Film and Media Promotion and African Data Science competition platform Zindi, has launched the Deepfake Africa Challenge in a bid to raise awareness about deepfake media, tools and ethics on the African continent.

Deepfakes have been prominent in the news in the last two years as the tools and platforms that allow for such content to be produced are widely available and easy to use by both skilled and casual users.

While some deepfakes can be used to create fun, viral videos or new synthetic applications such as digital avatars that have multiple applications, they also can be used to manipulate or generate visual and audio content with the potential to deceive with subsequent negative impacts for people, organisations and wider society.

Dr Nick Bradshaw, founder & CEO of AI Media the company behind AI Expo Africa, stated, “The objective of the challenge is to create convincing deepfakes to highlight the power of this synthetic media, illustrating its creative potential for exploitation for both positive and negative outcomes and focusing debate about its ethical use or mis-use in an African context. We partnered with Zindi as they have the largest community of Data Scientists in Africa, and Wesgro Film Unit to tap into the award-winning creative industry based in the Western Cape, South Africa. This challenge is open to both creative and technical talent across Africa. We look forward to seeing the outcomes from the submission.”

Wesgro Film and Media Promotion head Monica Rorvik commented, “Deepfake media can have negative outcomes. This challenge serves as an opportunity and platform that we can leverage during this interesting time of the “Pandemic of deep fakes” – and by working together, and checking facts, we can learn together and gain some herd immunity.”

Zindi co-founder and CEO Celina Lee stated “Deepfakes are fast becoming a challenge of our time. Through the Zindi platform we are seeking to tap into the collective insights and creativity from twenty-six thousand African data scientists to shine a light on this topic and create debate about the potential harms these media and tools can do from a uniquely African perspective.”

Submission and evaluation

Submissions are welcome from across the African continent and from relevant communities including researchers, developers, content creatives and film makers. The winning submissions of the Deepfake Africa Challenge will be showcased at AI Expo Africa 2021 ONLINE between 7 to 9 September.

Submissions for the Deepfake Africa Challenge can be either video or audio based. Each submission should be no longer than 90 seconds in length (MP4 or MP3 preferred final format). The content submitted must not be offensive or harmful in anyway and any submissions deemed to contravene this rule by the judges will be immediately rejected.Winners must be citizens of an African country and must be residing in Africa.All entries will be judged as follows:
  1. Artistic creativity and relevance to the challenge topic
  2. Level of innovation used in the process to generate the content
  3. A short explanation of platforms, tools and techniques used to generate your submission will greatly enhance your submission and are encouraged so we can build a picture of the most common tools and techniques used

The judging panel will be made up of representatives from Zindi, The AI Media Group and Wesgro. The judge’s decision will be final.

Prizes

1st Place Winner: Complimentary ticket to join AI Expo Africa 2021 ONLINE (including 1x return economy flight & 4x nights hotel stay B&B courtesy of Radisson Blue to join us at AI Expo Africa 2022). The 1st Place Winner’s flight is eligible to delegates joining from outside the host city capped to $1000 using economy class fare. Expenses and visas are not included.

2nd and 3rd prize winners to receive 1x complimentary ticket to AI Expo Africa 2021 ONLINE.

Top 3 placed winners will have work showcased at AI Expo Africa 2021 along with write up and press mentions.

Timeline

The competition closes on 30th July 2021. Final submissions must be received no later than 11:59 PM GMT 30th July 2021. Winners will be notified and announced by 17 August 2021 with the winning submissions being showcased at AI Expo Africa 2021 ONLINE between 7-9 September.

The challenge organisers reserve the right to update the content timeline if necessary.

 

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Releaf Partners with IITA to Improve Growth and Sustainability in Oil Palm Production

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Releaf VP Sourcing – Ayodeji Jayeoba (left), Nteranya Sanginga – DG, IITA (Middle) Ikenna Nzewi – CEO, Releaf (Right) (Image: Supplied)

Releaf, an agtech startup that develops proprietary hardware and software solutions that makes African farmers and food factories more efficient and profitable, has partnered with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture to improve growth and sustainability in oil palm production in Nigeria and across Africa.

The partnership will enable the startup and the award-winning research-for-development organisation to explore ways to increase oil palm yields, deploy the best intercropping mechanisms, and work with fabrication and mechanisation experts to foster further innovation and development in Nigeria’s smallholder-driven oil palm sector.

Despite having 80 percent of market share, 4 million smallholder farmers in Nigeria’s oil palm sector are unable to maximise the opportunity available to them. Due to relatively low yields and limited access to adequate processing equipment. Releaf has invented Kraken – West Africa’s most advanced palm nut de-sheller. Which can process up to 500 metric tons of palm nuts per week to produce premium palm kernel products at 95% purity, better than the 88% industry standard. Releaf also works with farmers to improve their output. By encouraging the adoption of best practices to increase their yield. And supporting farming activities that are good for the environment.

In the early 1960s, Nigeria was the world’s largest oil palm producer with a global market share of 43 per cent. Today, it contributes less than two percent of total global production. IITA will support Releaf with soil fertility analysis, access to its facilities, oil palm management programmes and leaf analysis for improved productivity. The partnership will also explore how insect waste can be recycled into organic waste that can be used to fertilise oil palm or as a source of nutrition for livestock.

According to Ikenna Nzewi, CEO and co-founder of Releaf, “IITA has a long and rich history of working with international and national partners to impact agricultural value chains. And we are really excited to be partnering with them. IITA also represents the beginning of the journey that led me to co-found Releaf and I am grateful for the opportunity to take this relationship forward. Oil palm is one of our most ubiquitous plants and we must continue to develop technology to improve its sustainable impact on rural communities’ livelihoods.”

IITA Director General Nteranya Sanginga said, “We are really impressed by what Releaf has already achieved in such a short space of time. I recall our first meeting with Ikenna in 2015 and it is great to see what that first encounter has led to. Investing in research and development is always a great advantage for everyone. And we are looking forward to working with Releaf to explore more ways to add value across the agricultural value chain.”

 

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Social media main enabler for growth among women-owned businesses

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95% of women SMEs in the region identify social media channels as the top tool to drive their business ventures

Mastercard, the Official Payment Technology Partner of Expo 2020 Dubai, and Female Fusion Network unveiled new research at the first in a series of workshops for the region’s female entrepreneurs at the world’s largest cultural gathering.

Held at Expo 2020 Dubai’s Women’s Pavilion, in collaboration with Cartier, the session focused on the power of the digital economy in enabling women-owned businesses to go online. In a study conducted among Female Fusion’s network of 20,000+ members across the region, it was revealed that 95% of women SMEs in the region identify social media channels as the top tool for their business ventures. Other channels include their own e-commerce websites (72%) as well as messaging services such as Facebook and Whatsapp (50%).

In addition, three out of four (72%) women-owned businesses said they rely on word of mouth to market their products and services. The workshop identified how SMEs can make the most of their online footprint, and better connect to their consumers in a digital economy.

Speakers included Ngozi Megwa, Senior Vice President, Digital Partnerships MEA, Mastercard, Sarah Beydoun, Founder and Creative Director of social impact fashion business Sarah’s Bag in Lebanon, Ioanna Angelidaki, co-founder of Instashop, and Maureen Hall, Founder and CEO of COÉGA Sunwear.

“The findings from the study indicate a clear need for further education and empowerment. Mastercard has long pushed for the success and growth of women as we break gender barriers around the world. Digital tools and technologies are the greatest equalizer for businesses and as the shift towards e-commerce becomes increasingly permanent, we are committed to helping women businesses go digital and grow digital as they pursue their entrepreneurial passions,” said Ngozi Megwa, Senior Vice President, Digital Partnerships MEA, Mastercard.

The recent unveiling of the inaugural Mastercard MEA SME Confidence Index also revealed that in terms of a digital footprint of the region’s women entrepreneurs, social media (71%) leads the way followed by a company website (57%).

“We are proud of the successful launch of our workshop series in partnership with Mastercard. As a growing community of ambitious women leaders, Female Fusion Network looks to support our members with access to platforms that offer simple yet effective takeaways for them to grow their business. We look forward to having more of these impactful sessions during Expo 2020 Dubai,” said Jennifer Blandos, Managing Partner, Female Fusion Network.

Mastercard has made a global commitment to connect 25 million women entrepreneurs to the digital economy by 2025 as part of its goal to build a more sustainable and inclusive world. As part of its efforts, the technology leader recently launched  ‘The Entrepreneur’s Odyssey’ a first-of-its kind digital education platform that brings together a range of world-class academic and business resources to help small businesses learn and thrive.

 

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Acronis, Cyber Protection Leader appoints Technology Veteran Paul Maritz, as Chairman of the Board

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Acronis Board Chairman, Paul Maritz (Image: Supplied)

Acronis, a global leader in cyber security and data protection, today announced that Paul Maritz has been appointed as the Chairman of the Board of Directors, effective September 21, 2021. Maritz will be responsible for the governance and leadership of Acronis as it strengthens its position in the service provider market preparing for significant growth in the future.

Earlier this year, Acronis raised $250M at a $2.5B valuation, and announced former GoDaddy’s partners business president, Patrick Pulvermüller, as the new chief executive officer. The strengthened management team will use the momentum to provide Acronis’ partners with the tools that they need to deal with a rapidly changing digital world.

The challenge of providing MSPs with effective tools to manage the environments of their customers is becoming increasingly complex, particularly in a world where security is becoming an overwhelming issue. Security can no-longer be handled by having an SMB end customer put together a plethora of individual tools. Modern threats have exposed the need for an integrated approach and automated cyber protection that solves the safety, accessibility, privacy, authenticity, and security (SAPAS) challenges of the modern digital world.

Acronis Cyber Protect provides all the management tools of the future that service providers need to do an effective job for their customers to help them grow their business. As well as developing its own technology, Acronis will continue to make acquisitions to become one of the world’s major players of providing the most innovative backup, security, and management tools on the market. Over 12,000 service providers trust Acronis Cyber Protect to manage over 2,000,000 workloads around the world, positioning Acronis for even more company growth in the future.  

“Paul brings a wealth of experience developing products to meet market demands and take companies to the next level. His becoming Chairman represents another step forward for Acronis in solidifying its position as a global leader in cyber protection. Paul’s experience with innovations at scale will help us to continue delivering easy, efficient, and secure cyber protection to service providers and their customers of any size,” said Patrick Pulvermüller, Acronis CEO.

“With its strength in backup and security, Acronis is well positioned to build a platform for a comprehensive list of management tools, helping service providers deliver modern cyber protection to their customers today and in the future. Acronis Cyber Protect is a great example of what can be done. Acronis will continue extensive research and development in this direction, helping partners optimize their operations and stay ahead of the competition,” said Paul Maritz, Acronis Chairman of the Board.

Maritz first joined the Board of Directors in May 2021, bringing 40 years of experience in computer science and software to the cyber protection company.

In his previous executive roles, Paul served on the Executive Staff of Microsoft, was the CEO of VMware, and was CEO and Founder of Pivotal Software. Paul currently is an active investor and serves on the Boards of several start-up technology companies.

Paul graduated with a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from the Universities of Natal and Cape Town. He is active in the nonprofit world, served for 10 years on the Board of the Grameen Foundation, which supports financial inclusion and technology in the developing world, and supports conservation efforts in Africa.

Paul Maritz replaces René Bonvanie, whose leadership helped Acronis develop an effective strategy to expand global presence and deliver easy, efficient, and secure cyber protection to customers of any size. Acronis wishes to thank René Bonvanie for his contribution to the company development and growth.

 

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