(KENYA, SOUTH AFRICA, UGANDA, & ZAMBIA | TUESDAY, JANUARY 9, 2024) — Last year, Mozilla debuted its Africa Mradi research grants, a new funding stream for researchers examining AI in Africa. Today, Mozilla is announcing the seven winning projects, which will explore the impact of AI on diverse communities across the continent, and also the needs of these communities. More than $60,000 USD is being awarded to this inaugural cohort.

These grants will deepen Africa Mradi’s support for impactful research, and also inform its movement-building work on the continent. Africa Mradi is Mozilla’s initiative to build movements and support trustworthy AI across Eastern and Southern Africa. It entails grantmaking, leadership support, convenings, and research — by Africans and for Africans.

The selected grantees are individuals and organizations that span four countries and have a strong emphasis on the intersection of AI, human rights, and gender justice. A majority of the selected projects will examine questions related to women's rights and gender issues in the region. Others will have a socio-economic focus (including the important issue of disability inclusion in Africa’s digital economy) and explore the impact of AI on Africa’s creative industries.

The research grants selection committee is composed of Mozilla staff, including those based in the region, and Mozilla fellows and awardees who live and work across the continent. The selection process entailed three rounds of internal review and a rigorous criteria agreed-upon by the selection committee.

The chosen projects represent diverse communities, contexts, and countries, but they are all concerned with questions of inequality and understanding the experiences and needs of those most impacted by AI. This research will help African advocates and activists do more effective advocacy with state representatives, funders/donors, and other important stakeholders, as it will provide critical evidence and illustrate the most pressing issues, trends, and patterns.

Says Koliwe Majama, Senior Program Officer at Mozilla Foundation: “This research will act as a baseline for us; a movement compass. We are looking to learn more about what technologists, activists, and communities in the region need in terms of funding and support. And there is no shortage of them: The continent has a robust history of advocacy, research, and analysis on issues of technology, gender, and human rights. Ultimately, this is a pathway to new partnerships, greater allyship, more collaboration.”

...This is a pathway to new partnerships, greater allyship, more collaboration

Koliwe Majama, Senior Program Officer, Mozilla Foundation

Meet the grantees:

Cherie Oyier | Kenya
Cherie Oyier is a lawyer working on privacy and data protection law in Kenya. Oyier’s research project, “Deceptive Designs and Policy Holes Aiding Unethical Personal Data Collection for AI Training: Lessons from Worldcoin’s Iris Scan Practices in Kenya,” aims to identify effective solutions for economically vulnerable citizens, and best practices for ethical biometric data collection for AI training. Oyier’s objectives are to investigate the failures of existing systems to unearth frameworks which uphold privacy rights and promote sustainable development in Kenya.

HER Internet | Uganda
HER Internet is a feminist digital rights organisation based in Uganda. Their research project, “The impact of Algorithms on LGBTQ organising in Uganda,” aims to examine how algorithms, especially on social networking platforms, impact the advocacy and organising efforts of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities at individual and collective levels. This research considers the restrictive legal, policy, and social environments for the community — a trend found in a significant number of countries in the region.

Min'enhle Ncube | Zambia
Ncube is an anthropologist studying the landscape of technology, data, artificial intelligence and the ethics of care in Zambia. Ncube’s research project, “Artificial Intelligence in Maternal Health in Zambia: Examining the impact of digitised maternal technology,” aims to investigate the challenges and dangers posed by biased datasets in the delivery of quality and timely care to pregnant people, who are among the most vulnerable and the most impacted by AI-led decision-making.

Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre to end violence against women, or TLAC | South Africa

TLAC is a non-governmental organisation based in South Africa working since 1996 to promote and defend the rights of women to be free from violence and to have access to high-quality, effective services. TLAC aims to produce “A gendered analysis of women’s access to AI and its impact on gender-based violence in the Eastern Cape, South Africa,” in order to better understand how AI is implicated in experiences of gender-based violence, as well as remedies to gender-based violence.

Creatives Garage Trust | Kenya

Creatives Garage is a multi-disciplinary arts organization in Kenya that provides a platform for creatives to share, collaborate, create new works, gain market access and push boundaries. Their research project “ARTificial Intelligence in Africa: Investigating the impacts of AI on the Creative Community in Kenya,” will use the experience of Kenyan creatives to explore whether AI can democratize the creative industries in the region. It will examine whether AI generates new opportunities for African creatives, but also interrogate how it might exacerbate inequalities and further disenfranchise creatives.

Duduetsang Mokoele | South Africa

Dudetsang Mokoele is a South Africa-based researcher interested in human rights and technology trends and developments, with a particular focus on policy-making. Her research, “Mind the People: Automating Social Security in South Africa,” looks at the role of AI in the provision of social security in South Africa, and its overall human rights implications.

Kabulonga Multi-purpose Disability Cooperative | Zambia

Kabulonga Cooperative is a Zambia-based organisation that works to promote and protect the rights of people living with disabilities. Their research project will explore “AI and Inclusive Employment Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities in Zambia and Zimbabwe: Challenges and Success Stories.” The research aims to analyze the results of the implementation of AI-powered initiatives intended to integrate and empower persons living with disabilities in the workplace. It will map both successes as well as harms emerging from these systems.