SA Startup Wants to Grow Africa’s Footprint in AI and Data Labelling

South African tech start-up Enlabeler has closed its funding round with venture capital firms Kingson Capital and E4E Africa, as well as the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.

Enlabeler was established in 2019 and offers data labeling services. This includes data classification, annotation, data labeling, and data labeling for global businesses. Enlabeler will address the youth unemployment crisis in South Africa by offering contract-based work and growth opportunities for unemployed young people in Kenya and South Africa.

Enlabeler’s inspiration was ignited by Esther Hoogstad, the founder and chief executive officer. She wrote a paper about how the SA tech sector could create micro-jobs that are digitally enabled for the youth population. Hoogstad met Pieter Boon (an AI and Data Science entrepreneur) and Koen Bonnenkamp (a passionate entrepreneur), during this process. The result was Enlabeler.

The current leadership team with Ridha Moosa and Pieter van der Merwe – among others – has grown to become a team of domain experts in this field, with both data science and DevOps experience. They are increasing their innovative footprint in support of labelers using strong tech and operational processes.

Hoogstad expands on the company’s inception: “The global market for AI applications has grown by a CAGR of 38% and is projected to surpass around 1,59 USD billion by 2030. Global data labelling sales are expected to reach USD 8.2 Billion by 2028. Data scientists and machine-learning engineers around the world need high-quality data to inform and train their models. This trend is only just starting to take root in South Africa.

Enlabeler
Enlabeler

“Accelerated by COVID-19 and the corresponding lockdown, many companies have been digitising and automating their business processes using ML (Machine Learning). Enlabeler was able to work remotely from lockdown. We had to create a solid tech foundation that could serve our clients worldwide. The team also had to be creative in selecting, training, and recruiting labellers via online tools. This is now being supported by our permanent team of reviewers and project managers based all over South Africa and Kenya.”

For the layperson, Enlabeler’s services incorporate image and video annotation – or labelling video frames and images to inform ML models and algorithms. ML is a crucial component in AI applications and requires large volumes of trained and untrained datasets that need to be “labelled” by humans to “teach” the machines. The company’s other services include speech and audio transcriptions; translations of video and audio content to local languages to increase market reach; text classification, and sentiment analysis. Enlabeler has a distinct advantage over its global competitors because of all these services.

Kingson Capital’s Ross Jenvey says, “We see many pitch decks from various tech start-ups, but Enlabeler stood out for its multi-pronged potential. That is, the company has a selection of highly-innovative services with vast commercial possibilities; plus, it offers immense scope for employment growth in the most underserviced local population group – young, often unskilled or unqualified job seekers.”

Kingson Capital’s Gladwyn Leeuw says, “With Enlabeler, we see the beginning of a future where technology creates widespread employment opportunities on the African continent. We hope to shatter the perception of technology as a force that adversely affects job creation or ‘replaces’ human elements. Rather, technology has the potential to create a whole new generation of African tech professionals, leveraging innovation to grow the continent’s economic footprint and boost every individual’s earning potential in the long-term.”

“To create earning opportunities that South Africans from low-income households need to support themselves and their families, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation invests in organizations that provide training for placement in in-demand jobs or connections to livelihood earning opportunities at scale. This new funding partnership allows Enlabeler to expand on its ability to provide training and enabling infrastructure to more labellers throughout the country, removing the barriers to earning faced by many,” says Ona Meyer, program manager, youth employment, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.

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