For Maximising AI’s Power in Africa

BY Alex Uytenbogaardt 2 MINUTE READ

Artificial intelligence (AI) – the buzzword that has sparked both excitement and fear – has found a solid footing in Africa thr-ough sci-tech company Africa Business Integration (ABI). Embracing the Fourth Industrial Revolution with full force, Co-founders Thabo Koee and Tebogo Nakampe started ABI with the sole purpose of providing key computer integration solutions to businesses on the continent. “The aim is to help businesses adopt new hardware and software tools to harness the full power of computational innovations,” says Thabo. “We’re on a scientific mission to push the boundaries of computer vision in Africa.” 

Smart software

As AI research scientists themselves, Thabo and Tebogo have fine-tuned ABI’s mission to specifically focus on developing interactive software that can be used as a complex problem solver. “The programmes will process human gestures as computational input,” says Thabo. “Our software uses advanced machine and deep learning, integrated with physics, to learn to solve any complex problem without needing to be taught how.” One of the most successful projects to come out of ABI is the XR DriveSim in collaboration with Intel AI. The simulator houses an augmented steering wheel that is activated by hand movements. It allows users to drive along virtual roads in 3D, offering an immersive environmental experience for anyone wanting to polish up on their driving technique.“Given the fact that road traffic crashes are the main cause of death among people aged between 15 and 29 years, what we aimed to do with XR DriveSim was to use the power of AI to encourage immersive driving lessons and enhance vehicle safety standard regulations,” says Thabo. “How we measure the success of this project is based on the system’s accuracy when it comes to gesture recognition. On normal RGB cameras, 95% of the hand gestures are recognised with low latency. Using our Intel RealSense RGB+D Cameras, 99% of the hand gestures are recognised with low latency — a 4% difference in accuracy.”

Data, data, data

Data is a powerful weapon. It’s the Xcalibur of the Information Age. Aware of such power, ABI is tapping into it as a major resource to further benefit businesses and their consumers. “To unlock new value for our clients, we begin by demystifying data that was previously in a digital silo or hidden,” says Thabo. “We use computer vision devices, sensors and analytics to activate real-time data streams and unearth, mobilise and monetise their data.” ABI further shares this resource with other businesses in order to better equip them when it comes to dealing with pertinent information about their individual consumer bases. “We provide turnkey solutions for clients who do not have the resources to build a complete computer vision (CV) solution in-house,” he says. “A typical CV project often requires an extensive data collection effort, thoughtful dataset design for training and testing, research and development for implementing the state-of-the-art solution, and finally deploying a system that will easily integrate with the client’s existing systems.” Due to the high demand in ABI’s services, new systems are currently in the pipeline to better serve their clientele. Not bad for a smart solutions company that only started two years ago.  

Read more in the March/April issue of Fast Company South Africa.


For Using the Cloud as a Financial Consulting Space

BY Alex Uytenbogaardt 2 MINUTE READ

Embracing digital culture from the get-go, Outsourced CFO (OCFO) is an online accounting and financial consultancy firm that services its clientele from cloud-based technology. This digi-solution has provided businesses and entrepreneurs with access to seasoned advisors, who help manage everything from cash flow and company tax to financial decision-making. 

Along with Co-Founder Dana Pretorius and Director Jacques Le Grange, Co-founder Louw Barnardt has pulled together a strong team of qualified chartered accountants and tax practitioners. With a wealth of expertise that amounts to over 70 years of experience in the field, they make up the very essence of OCFO. 

“We are able to keep scaling at this rate because of three main things. Firstly, the focus is on leadership in the team,” Louw says. “Secondly, we are building highly scalable infrastructure for our team to flawlessly execute without friction. And thirdly, we have a very strong branding and marketing effort that keeps attracting more and more conversation to the business — new staff, clients, and network partners and mentors.”

When it comes to doing business in South Africa, Louw harbours mixed feelings. The landscape for entrepreneurs is rocky from a political and economic point of view, often killing off startups before they’ve had a fair chance to form. “The current economic climate makes it very difficult for new ventures to successfully get off the ground. Big amounts of capital outflow from SA makes cash flow tough for all businesses,” he says. “The failure rates among new ventures are staggering and there are many challenges that an entrepreneur needs to overcome if they are to survive and then thrive in the local market.”

Even so, there remains a bright light at the end of the tunnel for those who are willing to persevere. “For the go-getter entrepreneur, support, mentorship, capital and many other resources can be amassed to build something special in South Africa,” says Louw. “Starting up in South Africa with an eye on the global market also makes for a resilient and exciting business model.”

Innovation is a critical component to this resilience and is something OCFO has successfully weaved into its business philosophy. “At OCFO, innovation is a part of who we are; it’s in our DNA. It is also included among our seven core company values and forms the base from which every function of the company runs,” Louw says. “For us, innovation means pushing the boundaries of what can be done in your industry — and that is what our company continuously strive to do.”

Read more in the March/April issue of Fast Company South Africa.