Africans secured 60% of the Gates Foundation’s $5M fund for health-focused AI projects

Gates Foundation has selected 29 African researchers for its inaugural $5 million Grand Challenges fund for AI project targeted towards global health.

Africans secured 60% of the Gates Foundation’s $5M fund for health-focused AI projects
At Shangia Dispensary in Mariakani, Kenya. ©Gates Archive/Alissa Everett

Through its Grand Challenge, Gates Foundation has selected 48 research groups that plan to build artificial intelligence (AI) applications on large language models (LLMs) to help social and healthcare causes in their communities.

About 29 of the recipients are Africans. 13 are from Asia, and the other six are American researchers. Each recipient will receive up to $100,000 to advance their research project, for a total of $5 million in grants. The findings of these projects will be shared at the Grand Challenges Annual Meeting in Dakar, Senegal, this October.

“These local innovators are harnessing the seismic power of AI and LLMs in ways that can be paradigm-shifting for their local communities and beyond. We believe the most impactful technological advancements include those that begin and end with the people they affect most,” Zameer Brey, interim deputy director for Technology Diffusion at the Gates Foundation, said.

“Too often, advances in technology deliver uneven benefits in many parts of the world due to existing patterns of discrimination, inequality, and bias,” said Juliana Rotich, co-founder of iHub, a Nairobi-based tech incubator that has been acquired by CcHub. “AI is no different, with most of the tools being developed in the Global North using data from lower-resourced regions that are often incomplete or inaccurate. To realize the full potential of AI, it must be developed responsibly and ethically, with the needs of the end user in mind. Solutions can be transformative when they are locally inspired.” Rotich is also a member of Gates Foundation's new AI Ethics and Safety Advisory Committee.

Responsible and safe use of AI-driven LLM technology has the potential to help solve some of the world’s toughest health and development challenges. However, for these models to be useful in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), researchers in LMICs need to participate in the design, application, and testing of this technology as it rapidly evolves. A robust evidence base will fill gaps in access and our knowledge about the application of such tools to address problems across LMICs in an equitable way.

Meet the African AI projects selected for Gates Foundation Global Challenge AI fund

South Africa dominated the list of the selected projects, followed by Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Malawi, Mali and Senegal. The researchers are a combination of healthtech entrepreneurs, academicians, medical practitioners, and data experts.

South Africa

  • Sophie Pascoe of the Wits Health Consortium is using AI to reduce stigma and improve precision in HIV risk assessments.
  • Tamlyn Roman, lead consultant at Quantium Health in South Africa will use generative AI and LLMs to develop an automated analyst that integrates disparate health datasets and automates data analytics to support evidence-based decision-making in public health.
  • Cally Ardington, a professor at University of Cape Town in South Africa is developing an AI-powered voice-recognition model that performs Early Grade Reading Assessments (EGRA) in African languages.
  • Neal Lesh, chief strategy officer at Dimagi is creating an LLM-powered coach tailored to frontline workers that offers training, performance feedback, and encouragement to support their health and improve their productivity.
  • Leonora Tima of Kwanele (Bringing Women Justice in South Africa) is developing a mobile application and chatbot to provide understandable legal information on gender-based violence (GBV) to vulnerable groups, including high school learners, young women, survivors of GBV, members of the LGBTQIA+ community and sex workers.
  • Scott Mahoney of The Health Foundation of South Africa will create an application that combines human expertise with AI technology to produce clinical recommendations from published medical evidence to be used as a decision-support tool for healthcare professionals in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Suzanne Staples of the THINK Tuberculosis and HIV Investigative Network (RF) NPC in South Africa and Kristina Wallengren of THINK International in Denmark will produce a toolkit that leverages ChatGPT for the analysis and interpretation of health program data in LMICs.


  • Martin Mwangi of Intellisoft Consulting Ltd. will build an application-supported LLM to improve knowledge, attitudes, and practices surrounding the risk factors for non-communicable diseases for young people in Kenya.
  • Daphne Ngunjiri, CEO of Access Afya in Kenya will integrate ChatGPT into a virtual clinic application, mDaktari, to support clinicians and better respond to patient inquiries.
  • Robert Korom is the chief medical officer of Penda Health, he will integrate ChatGPT-4 into their established patient communication system to increase consultation efficiency and the speed of delivering accurate health information in Kenya.
  • Tonee Ndungu of Kytabu Company Ltd. in Kenya will develop a comprehensive AI-powered mobile application, SOMANASI (derived from the Swahili words meaning "learn together") to provide personalized education to every student in Kenya.
  • Christophe Bocquet of Dalberg Global Development Advisors (K) Ltd. will develop VIDA PLUS, a chatbot accessible via WhatsApp that delivers public health information by live interaction to health officials, particularly in rural areas, to support their decision-making.


  • A LLM tool to support frontline health workers in low-resource settings by Nirmal Ravi, EHA Clinics Ltd in Kano, Nigeria
  • AI for education delivery: Adaptive learning content for rural students by Chinazo Anebelundu, a geospatial business lead at DSN Ai Innovations Limited in Lagos, Nigeria.
  • Leveraging an LLM for Financial Inclusion by Olubayo Adekanmbi, founder of Data Science Nigeria.
  • Integration of a Large Language Model (LLM) for Women-Centered Care by Nneka Mobisson, co-founder and CEO of Nigerian healthtech startup, mDoc Healthcare.


  • Nana Kofi Quakyi of the Aurum Institute will develop an AI-powered decision support tool for antibiotic prescribers to improve appropriate antimicrobial usage and combat antimicrobial resistance in Ghana.
  • Darlington Akogo, co-founder and CEO of MinoHealth AI Labs is leveraging a multimodal LLM to generate accurate and comprehensive medical reports based on the analysis of medical images to reduce the need for manual reports and enhance diagnostic capabilities for radiologists and clinicians.
  • Floris Sonnemans of Degas Ghana Limited will apply AI technology to support African smallholder farmers to implement more climate-adaptive and regenerative agricultural techniques, such as crop diversification, and scale climate action across the continent.


  • Integrated AI, Internet of Things (IoT), and a Swahili Chatbot: Agri-Tech solution for early disease detection on maize by Theofrida Maginga, an assistant lecturer at Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro, Tanzania.
  • AI in Community Radios: Enhancing health communication and malaria control in Tanzania by Brenda Hendry of Boresha Live.
  • Improving the use of integrated management of childhood illness protocols in Tanzania via ChatGPT-4. This is a project by Essa Mohamedali, co-founder of the Tanzania AI Community.


  • Joseph Mulabbi, CEO of Ugandan healthtech Dromedic Health Care, will use ChatGPT-4 to optimize the surveillance of zoonotic diseases and predict future pandemics.
  • Daudi Jjingo of the Infectious Diseases Institute in Uganda will leverage generative AI to develop an interactive conversation-based platform to communicate the national guidelines for pandemic preparedness in a native African language to health workers to improve pandemic management.
  • Joyce Nakatumba-Nabende, a lecturer at Makerere University in Uganda will leverage ChatGPT to provide tailored support to smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa in their local languages.


  • Alain Ndayishimiye of the Center for AI Policy and Innovation Ltd. in Rwanda will integrate a translation model with GPT-4 to produce a health service support tool in the national language, bypassing the need to build language-specific LLMs from scratch.


  • Amelia Taylor of Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences in Malawi will employ LLMs, including ChatGPT and MedPalm, to develop a tool to streamline the collection, analysis, and use of COVID-19 data.


  • Michael Leventhal of the Association RobotsMali in Mali will determine whether ChatGPT-4 can support curriculum development and teacher training to improve literacy in Mali, which has 65% illiteracy.


  • Mamadou Alpha Diallo of Cheikh Anta Diop University in Senegal will apply Large Language Models (LLMs) to improve decision-making, policy development, resource allocation, and communication to help combat infectious diseases in Africa.

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