A grassroots NLP community for Africa, by Africans

Our Mission

Masakhane is a grassroots organisation whose mission is to strengthen and spur NLP research in African languages, for Africans, by Africans. Despite the fact that 2000 of the world’s languages are African, African languages are barely represented in technology. The tragic past of colonialism has been devastating for African languages in terms of their support, preservation and integration. This has resulted in technological space that does not understand our names, our cultures, our places, our history. 

Masakhane roughly translates to “We build together” in isiZulu. Our goal is for Africans to shape and own these technological advances towards human dignity, well-being and equity, through inclusive community building, open participatory research and multidisciplinarity.

Our Values

Contact Us - Join Us

Current State of NLP in Africa

Even in the forums which aim to widen NLP participation, Africa is barely represented - despite the fact that Africa has over 2000 languages. The 4th Industrial revolution in Africa cannot take place in English. It is imperitive that NLP models be developed for the African continent

As per Martinus (2019), some problems facing  NLP in  African languages are as follows:

 We propose to change that! Only by working together across the African continent can we do this!


To begin, check out GitHub README


The community consists of >1000 participants from 30 African countries with diverse educations and occupations, and >3 countries outside Africa. As of February 2020, over 49 translation results for over 38 African languages have been published by over 35 contributors on GitHub.

The community has published a range of papers in 2020, at the AfricaNLP workshop at ICLR, at WiNLP at ACL, at COLING, LoresMT, and EMNLP Findings. Please find the complete list here.

The EMNLP Findings paper describes our approach to low-resource NLP: participatory research. 

At EMNLP 2020, we gave the keynote at the prestigous WMT workshop. The talk features 15 of our participants. 

In this talk, we challenge the idea that "low-resourcedness" is just a data problem. Instead, we propose that it is a societal problem, and that the best way to solve this societal problem is through participation

Where can I help? 

You don't need to be a NLP researcher to join us! We want anyone passionate about African languages to join. So we have many major ways to help:

How can I collaborate with Masakhane?

With Collaboration and Support From 

University of Pretoria

University of Witwatersrand