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BACE Group: Tackling identity theft in Africa

BACE Group: Tackling identity theft in Africa
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Credits:Underneath the World by Mid-Air Machine www.freemusicarchive.orgAdditional sound effects from www.zapsplat.com

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…… A typical conversation between a fraudster and a prospective victim ..

[SFX] Phone rings … picks.

Frausdter: Good day sir, my name  is James, from Access Bank. Am I speaking with Mr Koffi Zawadi?

Customer: Yes, you are. How can I help you?

Fraudster: Yeah, so there’s a problem with your account verification and I’m calling to walk you through it. 

Customer: Hope I don’t have to be coming to your bank? I’m very busy. 

Fraudster: No sir, all you need to do is give us some details. I can see you live at No. 6 Ozumba Mbadiwe and your date of birth is 5th of July, 1987. 

Customer: Yes, correct.

Fraudster: Okay, just provide me with your BVN, and ATM card details.

Customer: ATM card details and BVN? Why?

Fraudster: It’s for verification, sir. Don’t you want to sort out your problem?

Customer: See, you think I don’t know who you are?… (hurls insults and fades out)

Narrator: If you’ve received such a call before, you probably know at least ten people who have also. And this is because these types of calls are pretty rampant. But have you ever wondered how these people know your name, your address, and sometimes your account details? 

On this episode of Built in Africa, we delve into how Ghanaian based startup, BACE Group (spelt as BACE) uses state of the art technology to tackle the problem of identity theft in Africa.

As the African continent comes to grips with new technologies, research has shown that its people and companies are highly susceptible to cyber thefts and fraud. These incidents are rarely reported by companies, so it’s actually difficult to arrive at a solution. 

However, at the 2017 edition of the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), four young African entrepreneurs — two Ivorians, a Nigerian, and a Ghanaian — decided that this was the challenge they wanted to overcome.

Charlette N’Guessan, Arinze Christopher Ugwu, Samuel Sowah Mensah, and Jean Cedric Attiembonon all met at the MEST programme, and in 2018, the BACE group was formed. 

Voice actor: “Our solution, BACE API, is a digital identity verification system that uses facial recognition powered by Artificial intelligence.”

Narrator: That’s Charlette N’Guessan, BACE Group’s CEO and the only woman on the founding team.  As a network and software engineer, N’Guessan, has trained organisations on the adoption of technology in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

For N’Guessan and her teammates, if a veritable verification-as-a-service product must be built, it has to make use of the commonest means of biometric identification fit for the African market – face recognition.

Voice actor: “We were looking at something that would make our solution stand out from the existing security software available on the market. So, we decided to use facial recognition as a biometric technology because we believe that the uniqueness of the individual is at the heart of good digital identity management. 

I mean like really, to be honest, facial recognition is the most natural of all biometric measurements. After all, as humans, we recognise ourselves not by looking at our fingers or irises but by looking at our faces.”

Narrator: With this perspective in mind, they went ahead to

Kiakiaprint: African ‘Uber for print’ startup partners with Canva

Kiakiaprint: African 'Uber for print' startup partners with Canva
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Credits:Upbeat Corporate by JP Bianchini – @jpmbianchiniOptimistic / Inspirational by Mixaund – mixaund.bandcamp.comSafe In Your Arms by Mixaund – mixaund.bandcamp.comAdditional music and sound effects from www.zapsplat.com

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Narrator: On July 30, 2020, Nigerian-based Kiakiaprint announced its expansion to South Africa and partnership with Australian-based online design and publishing company, Canva.

The news came barely a month after Canva raised $60 million, at a $6bn valuation, and partnered with FedEx Office to break into the US market. Canva’s next move was into Africa, and it chose to partner with Kiakiaprint. 

For a startup like Kiakiaprint which prints and delivers custom designs on demand, it’s quite a perfect match.

Tunde Ademuyiwa: “Canva has 30 million users globally. Before the lockdown, they were 20 million and it’s growing.”

Narrator: That’s Tunde Ademuyiwa, co-founder and CEO of Kiakiaprint. 

Tunde Ademuyiwa: “They align with our vision. Now, our vision is, help people grow their business, leveraging print technology. When it comes to design technology, sorry nobody beats Canva. It’s easy to use, it’s straightforward. That’s why the partnership just made sense”

Narrator: On this episode of Built in Africa, we put the spotlight on how Nigerian print-on-demand startup, Kiakiaprint is taking its business global with Canva partnership and South Africa expansion.

Tunde Ademuyiwa didn’t set out to start a printing company, he just happened to stumble on the opportunity.

Tunde Ademuyiwa:: “If you asked me back in school, in my wildest of dreams, I never imagined the print industry. Globally, the print industry is worth about $800 billion. It’s bigger than the music industry, it’s massive. I think it’s the 3rd biggest industry in the world. But I didn’t know it was this massive. Not one person can cover the entire print industry”

Narrator: It all began in 2012, when Tunde had an idea to make a business out of embedded chips in cards. He took a loan from a close friend and started his first company, Vocal Circuits    Limited, a year later in 2013. The startup sought to offer bespoke audio and video print services to clients from different industries.

The loan was used to launch the company’s main product, Speaking Cards. And during the Ramadan, a popular religious event held by Muslims, Ademuyiwa decided to make 2,000 copies of Speaking Cards with Islamic messages and announcements embedded in a brochure.

Tunde Ademuyiwa: “This was around June, it was a 6-month loan. The plan was to pay back back in December.”

Narrator: Unfortunately, due to the absence of a proper distribution network, they weren’t able to sell everything. 

Tunde Ademuyiwa: “I spoke to my friend and, for some reason, she just trusted me. I was the one who was bothered, she wasn’t bothered. I was humbled because she just trusted me”.

Narrator: To make the best of a bad situation, Tunde decided to pitch to banks and presented Speaking Cards as a way to teach unbanked Nigerians about mobile money.

Tunde Ademuyiwa: “The target for mobile money are people at the bottom of the pyramid. People at that level can’t read and write so, how do you market mobile money to them? You have to use their Mother Tongue. So we created sp

ITIKI: Simplified forecasts for small-scale African farmers

ITIKI: Simplified forecasts for small-scale African farmers
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CreditsWest Africana by Hicham Chahidi – http://www.musicscreen.org/SFX from http://www.freesoundslibrary.com

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(Female robotic voice): New SMS. Reading…

Voice actor: [In mystic tone and voice]: The full moon has scared the monkeys…

Narrator: Without the proper context, that message makes no sense. But if you are a small-scale farmer living in Mbeere, Embu county, Kenya, it means only one thing…

On this episode of Built in Africa, we will be looking at how South African agritech startup, ITIKI uses artificial intelligence to simplify rainfall forecasts for small-scale farmers around Africa.

Most African economies rely on the activities of small-scale farmers who, according to the United Nations, produce about 80% of the continent’s food.

With nearly 95% of their planting activities dependent on rainfall, accurately predicting weather conditions is crucial for small-scale farmers who can lose everything to wrong cropping decisions. This is where ITIKI comes in.

Professor Muthoni Masinde: “The idea behind ITIKI is to produce relevant drought forecasts for small-scale farmers”

Narrator: That’s Professor Muthoni Masinde, Kenyan computer scientist and founder and CEO of South Africa based ITIKI.

Prof. Muthoni: “The reason why we use the keyword ‘relevant’ is because there’s so much information out there. If you look at your phone, there’s a forecast. If you turn on the TV, there’s a forecast. If you open a page in a newspaper, there’s a forecast. But for us, we realised that none of that is useful to the small-scale farmers, so we went about creating a solution that works for them.”

Narrator: What is novel about ITIKI’s model is that it combines indigenous knowledge with technology to guarantee accurate predictions, and deliver them in a relevant, yet inexpensive way. 

Prof. Muthoni: “We relay that information to them in formats and semantics that relate to their context. So it’s an SMS in their local language and it does not tell them things like ‘near normal rainfall’ or ‘300 millimetres of rainfall’. Rather, it will tell them, ‘this season, you’ll get rainfall that is not enough to grow your usual maize, so you may consider planting millet or sorghum’. When it’s very near the cessation, when the rain is about to stop, a week before, it tells them, ‘Ish… you need to stop planting because, in the next 3 weeks, there’ll be no rain. 

So things like those, they relate to them and that’s how we managed to get to their hearts.

Narrator: Remember that seemingly cryptic message from earlier? A typical SMS to ITIKI users reads just like that.

Prof. Muthoni: “The moon has scared the  monkeys. So that means that in 3 days time, it will start raining, and this rain will be so short-lived that you have to hurry in your planting.”

Narrator: In case you are wondering, yes Prof. Muthoni grew up in one of such villages, so she has first-hand experience and understanding.

Prof. Muthoni: “It’s simple but it’s so rich. When you mention the moon scaring the monkeys, it immediately rings a bell in their minds because they have used that as a sign before. The only new information they have is exactly the number of days, which they may not be aware of, and the nature of the rain”.

Narrator: The groundwork for ITIKI was laid between 2011 and 2012, while Muthoni was doing her postgraduate research at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. 

In 2013, with the help of a team of resea

One Kiosk Africa: Hyperlocal grocery delivery within 59 minutes

One Kiosk Africa: Hyperlocal grocery delivery within 59 minutes
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FULL TRANSCRIPT

Narrator: In February 2018, while serving as the chief operating officer of a Lagos-based tech startup, Adeshina Adewunmi found that he struggled to maintain a work-life balance.

Adeshina Adewunmi: “My wife was actually ill and basically, I had to do all the grocery shopping. I had to also combine leading a tech startup.”

Narrator: To ease the pressure, Adeshina went in search of online grocery delivery platforms but, according to him, he couldn’t find any that could deliver to his part of Lagos within the same day.

Amidst all this, Adeshina observed the turbulence within the Nigerian eCommerce industry at the time. Most notably, Naspers, one of the most active tech investors in Africa, announced exiting Konga and OLX, its 2 biggest eCommerce plays in Nigeria, within the space of 3 days. None of the exits were under favourable conditions.

This got Adeshina thinking about the obstacles preventing eCommerce from taking off in Nigeria

Adeshina Adewunmi: “I started researching, alongside a few friends, to say ‘what can we do differently’? You know, Africa is very unique, copy and paste doesn’t work. You need to look at what works then readapt that model to fit our economy”

Narrator: On this episode of Built in Africa, we spotlight how Lagos-based eCommerce startup, One Kiosk Africa, is exploring the hyperlocal model to achieve sustainability in a struggling market.

In the course of his research, Adeshina examined how foreign companies, like US-based Instacart, operate a hyperlocal grocery delivery and pick-up service in over 5,000 cities.

Adeshina Adewunmi: “I stumbled on Instacart, stumbled on Cornershop, stumbled on some other few platforms and I said, ‘this is it’”

Narrator: Adeshina’s certainty stemmed from his previous experience running something similar, albeit unstructured, about 2 years earlier.

Adeshina Adewunmi: “Far back in 2016, I decided to leave the financial sector, whereby I was working with Stanbic IBTC, to start up and to pursue my passion which is business. I started out Home Tutors Nigeria and I was privileged to always visit some of our clients in the popular Eko Market. As you know, Eko Market is one of the biggest, busiest markets in Lagos.

Everytime I go in there, I see the opportunities. I see how people exchange value for money and I decided, ‘why don’t we leverage on existing platforms to help them scale more?’”

Narrator: He went around stores in the market, and began taking and uploading photos of on-demand items on online classifieds platforms like OLX and Jiji 

Adeshina Adewunmi: “I saw that averagely, in a week, I was making at least… you know, in sales volume… I was doing close to about ₦300,000 averagely”.

Narrator: That was in 2016. Three years later, in 2019, One Kiosk Africa was registered. Using a one-page site with Google Forms to gauge user feedback, the company launched its pilot, offering the stores the option to connect with buyers locally.

Adeshina Adewunmi: “And viola! With just food in the initial stage, we saw how the numbers rose and then we knew that, yes, it’s time to expand and to build on this niche market

Narrator: The value proposition? Hyperlocal proxy-shopping for busy people, with promised same-day delivery within 59 minutes.

Akiddie: The ‘Netflix’ of African children’s stories and books

Akiddie: The 'Netflix' of African children's stories and books
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Additional sound effects from https://www.zapsplat.com

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Narrator: In this episode of Built in Africa podcast, we put the spotlight on how Akiddie looks to create the largest collection of African children’s stories using technology

If you grew up in Nigeria, you probably heard this familiar call and response phrase before a night time story

Voice actors: “Story story… story!”, ” Once upon a time… time time!”

Narrator: Before the 21st century, storytelling was an integral part of most Nigerian cultures. Children would gather around adults, most notably under the moonlight, to hear different tales and folklore, sometimes in their native tongue.

Stories about animals, the cunningness of the tortoise or brutality of the lion, for instance, would educate and entertain. Some of these stories would even change the way they approach the world, in terms of morals and values.

In recent times, however, this aspect of Nigeria’s cultural heritage has changed a lot. An example is how most youth living outside their places of origin can’t speak their native language.

For Dominic Onyekachi, a Nigerian fluent in Igbo and Hausa, two of Nigeria’s major languages, this is not much of a worry. He’s more perplexed by another issue.

Dominic Onyekachi: “My sister had asked me to read a story to my niece. I went through her mini library and I discovered something unnerving. Not only were the stories white and foreign, with predominantly white characters and plots – I felt that wasn’t representative of her, of course – the themes were outdated and probably outrightly sexist”. 

Narrator: That’s Dominic Onyekachi

Dominic Onyekachi: “It emphasised marriage as the ultimate achievement for women. You see that in stories like Cinderella, Rapunzel which tell girls that ‘you are a princess but the story isn’t about you. Your princessness has to be validated by a Prince Charming that comes to sweep you off your feet.’ 

I felt that was an outdated theme, most likely because those stories were written over 200 years ago.”

Narrator: Dominic clarifies that while he doesn’t have any issues with marriage, he feels Nigerian children should consume indigenous stories with more powerful narratives.

Dominic Onyekachi: “Gender equality, inclusion, SDGs, tolerance, tech, entrepreneurship, financial literacy. None of these were themes covered by the books that were available.”

Narrator: Beyond the dated themes, a large part of the stories African children read in schools are tales of different people or cultures. Indigenous tales are less frequently told, and now children know more about Zeus or Thor than Sango or Amadioha. 

After his experience with his niece, Dominic had an idea. 

Dominic Onyekachi: “I decided to write her children’s stories. I got my friend, Tolu to illustrate it. The books were an instant hit in our estate and around”

Narrator: That initial success birthed the company, Akiddie, which Dominic co-founded with his illustrator friend, Tolulope Wojuola and Fanan Dala, a long-time business partner with whom he had worked on a couple of projects as a student at Covenant University, Nigeria. 

Dominic Onyekachi: “I didn’t actually set out to build a tech startup. I had already tried a few ideas in tech before but, I didn’t know that this was going to be my next idea in building a tech startup.

Initially, what I just wanted to do was write better stories but, when we discovered that the stories had demand and people really li

Logistify AI: On-demand warehousing and fulfilment in Africa

Logistify AI: On-demand warehousing and fulfilment in Africa
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FULL TRANSCRIPT

Narrator: Growing up in rural Uganda, Daniel Emaasit and Tobias Tukei helped their parents operate their family warehouse and farm.

For more than 20 years they struggled to maintain constant income from their warehouse, due to how demand for storage of agricultural produce fluctuated. 

Male voice actor 1: “Our parents decided to focus more on farming than warehousing. This took a toll on their health. Our mom had a stroke at the farm and our dad developed chronic back pain. If our parents had focused more on warehousing, maybe their health would’ve been better,” 

[Narrator] Daniel laments

In this episode of Built In Africa Podcast, we’ll be taking a look at how Ugandan startup, Logistify AI, is helping businesses find flexible storage for their inventory.

Narrator: Driven by the warehouse challenge, the brothers were determined to find a solution to help their parents. After graduating from the university, Tobias went on to become a professional logistics and supply manager, working in different logistics companies in the space of six years. Daniel, on the other hand, is an AI researcher and PhD data scientist in the US.

During Tobias’ career in the logistics and supply chain management in Uganda, he noticed that many warehouse owners were looking to rent out their vacant spaces. At the same time, he received requests from shippers looking for storage space.

As a middleman, Tobias took the initiative and started matching warehouse owners and shippers. Being a ‘one-man’ team, he spent weeks negotiating contracts between any two parties. This led to a lot of back and forth that included emailing requirements, faxing invoices, and many phone conversations.

Male voice actor 2: “This was a pain. It would take a shipper weeks to get a final quote. Moreover, each warehouse would send me quotes with extremely varying prices and fees. There was no standardisation in pricing,” 

[Narrator] Tobias recalls.

Narrator: In July 2019, Daniel proposed that he and Tobias solve this problem. How? By creating a marketplace for warehouses in Africa so people could easily find and book them.

Three weeks later, the brothers had a minimum viable product (MVP).

Male voice actor 1: “We onboarded our parents’ warehouse first,” [Narrator] Daniel recalls enthusiastically. “Then Tobias reached out to his former clients and showed them the MVP. They were so excited because a tech solution could scale and was more efficient than relying on Tobias to be the middleman. We onboarded them immediately.”

Narrator: In August, with the help of Daniel’s friend, Cristian Arteaga, the brothers founded Logistify AI. Daniel acts as the startup’s CEO while Tobias and Cristian act as COO and CTO respectively.

Based in Uganda, Logistify AI is a marketplace of warehouses to help businesses find flexible storage for their inventory.

According to the CEO, the startup’s value proposition is to offer flexible warehousing at low prices for businesses of all sizes.  Also, the startup helps warehouse owners earn extra income from their vacant spaces.

The storage duration of Logistify’s warehouses is flexible as those looking to use them can book for a day, a month, several months, or even a year.

As the platform began to catch on, suppliers asked the startup to add an offering: a transportation service to move their inventory from warehouse to final customers. 

Male voice actor 1: “Suppliers begged us to provide transportation for their inventory. So we built a fulfilment product t

MainOne: 10 years building West Africa’s internet infrastructure

MainOne: 10 years building West Africa's internet infrastructure
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FULL TRANSCRIPT

Narrator: In 2008, Funke Opeke, a former executive with Verizon Communications in the USA had a vision.

She had just moved back to Nigeria three years earlier and, while working with MTN Nigeria, one of the country’s leading telecommunications companies, she noticed the low internet penetration in the country. Internet cafes were popular but very few smartphones were available.

Her plan? To bridge the digital divide in West Africa with the provision of enabling infrastructure. That vision gave birth to MainOne, one of Africa’s biggest telecom infrastructure providers.

In this episode of Built In Africa, Funke takes us 10 years inside MainOne’s journey of building West Africa’s Internet infrastructure

On Thursday, July 1, 2010, MainOne officially launched the first ever private submarine cable in West Africa. 10 years on, Funke Opeke looks back at that moment in time with fondness.

Funke Opeke: “Putting a cable in operation 10 years ago today. First private cable, on time, on budget, we were a startup company. It was a big bet and we succeeded. So, yeah, that was a high moment”

Narrator: The launch heralded a massive boost to Internet speeds in the country. With a large presence in Lagos, one could draw links between the rise in Internet speeds and the proliferation of startups in the city.

Funke Opeke: “You kinda look back and see what’s happening with startups in Yaba, and the entire tech space in Lagos. Each time any of the founders reaches out and I see the appreciation, the recognition of what we have done, that truly touches me because I feel like I’ve really made an impact, helping people achieve their dreams”

Narrator: For Funke, the rising levels of Internet penetration in Nigeria, being invited to chair the Nigerian National Broadband Plan 2020 – 2025, and the White House invitation to discuss Internet connectivity for the globe and to unserved populations in Africa, show admirable level of recognition for the company’s work.

But the journey hasn’t been without its fair share of challenges

Funke Opeke: “MainOne has been more successful in having impact than we have been commercially successful. A lot of people don’t realise that “

Narrator: One of the biggest challenges has been raising funds in such a capital-intensive endeavour as telecommunications. 

Funke Opeke: “We capitalised the company with $240m to start and it takes significant amounts to run this infrastructure and keep it performing at a world-class standard while continuing to invest in local distribution, infrastructure, and data centres”

Narrator: Of course, like every company with a base in Nigeria, stable power is also an issue

According to Funke, MainOne has invested a lot in power. With privatisation, they were able to make a private connection to the national grid. This meant they’ve had better power than most.

Despite this, the company’s distributed operations still face the same power challenges as others. Apparently, they still have to invest in backup power, colocation facilities, and other power solutions.

Besides the working environment’s challenges, she still looks back on the company’s impact with some longing.

Funke Opeke: “I look back and I never imagined that ten years after we launched, every school in Nigeria would still not have access to the Internet. What does that say about us as a society, about how much value we place on the education of our young people? So those kinds of things are still low moments for me, to see how far we’ve come and how much there is still t

Apollo Agriculture: Helping small-scale farmers maximise profitability

Apollo Agriculture: Helping small-scale farmers maximise profitability
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FULL TRANSCRIPT

Narrator: Around the world, most farmers have suffered different sets of challenges in scaling and growing their farms. Although lending and crowdfunding platforms have popped up over the past years, it’s still very difficult for smallholder farmers to access financing.

Some banks and other financial entities have employed unsavoury and predatory tactics that affect these agricultural businesses in the long term.

In this episode of Built In Africa, we’ll be taking a look at how Kenyan startup, Apollo Agriculture, is solving the credit problem small-scale farmers face with technology.

In 2015, Geneva-based policy advisory firm, Dalberg Global Development Advisors conducted some research about small-scale farming. From its findings, $450b was required to meet the needs of smallholder farmers around the world. But these farmers only got $31b, which was less than one-tenth of the supposed financing.

Coming closer to home, The World Bank reported that while agriculture made up 18% of sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP, lending to the stakeholders in the agricultural sector represented only 1%.

If there’s anyone who understands the struggles of smallholder farmers in Africa, it is Kenyan entrepreneur, Benjamin Njenga.

Benjamin Njenga: “I grew up on a farm and my mother, a smallholder farmer, used to plant with low quality seeds, no fertiliser, harvested only 5 bags per acre each year”

Narrator: That was Benjamin Njenga recalling his mother’s experience running her farm

Benjamin Njenga:  “We knew if she would have been able to access fertiliser and hybrid seeds, her production would double but she couldn’t access the credit to buy these tools.”

Narrator: The experience motivated Benjamin’s desire to solve the problem he faced with his mother. He would go on to study agribusiness and management at the university. He also spearheaded smallholder agriculture insurance at ACRE Africa in Nairobi, helping to insure over half a million smallholder farmers against weather risks.

In 2017, Benjamin officially launched Apollo Agriculture with his co-founders, Eli Pollak and Earl St. Sauver, whom he met through a mutual friend. Benjamin serves as the Chief Customer Officer while Eli and Earl serve as CEO and COO respectively.

Benjamin Njenga: “Eli and Earl used to work for a company called Climate Corporation, a US company that uses machine learning to provide optimised recommendations to help US farmers increase their yield, which was later on sold for $1bn in 2013. 

We got connected, I and my founders, with the same mission. With my background and knowledge working with farmers and their technical skills from the US, it was a perfect match to develop a company to support farmers”

Narrator: The goal with Apollo Agriculture was simple: To use machine learning and automated operations technology to help small-scale farmers with everything they need to maximise their profitability. They believed this was a necessary solution in a market where most farmers are producing 10% of what US farmers are producing.

The vast majority of small-scale farmers in Africa still cannot access tools like hybrid seeds, fertilisers, and insurance that can increase their yield and income. This boils down to two reasons.

Benjamin Njenga: “One, smallholder farmers are very rural, remote and difficult to reach. But second, they lack access to credit and, therefore, cannot afford the affront cost of well understood, high return investments like hybrid seeds and fertilisers.”

Narrator: Till date, approaches to smallholder financing have relied on human-driven and manual processes. Th

Voyc: Artifical Intelligence from Africa to the world

Voyc: Artifical Intelligence from Africa to the world
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Soundtrack credit: Spark Of Inspiration by Shane Ivers – https://www.silvermansound.com.

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Narrator: Have you ever contacted a customer care centre to lodge a complaint and heard this?

SFX: Phone ringing… click.. “This call may be monitored and recorded for quality assurance”.

Narrator: In this episode of Built in Africa, we’ll be taking a look at how South African startup, Voyc, is working to improve how call centres handle customer experience with its AI-based software

Narrator: Almost every organisation, especially in the finance space, that runs a call centre has to record and save all calls that come in. Later, a team of quality assurance professionals replays the recordings to study whether call centre agents are doing their job properly and resolving customer complaints satisfactorily.

But there’s a problem. An average call centre with about 50 call agents can accumulate up to 7000 hours of calls a month. Can you imagine having to replay 7000 hours of calls in a month? Even with a team of 10 quality assurance professionals listening round the clock, it’d still take another month to get through them.

Lethabo Motsoaledi: “In actual fact, only 2% of those calls are monitored. So they manually listen to only 2% of the calls. Meaning 98% of the time, if something wrong happens in that call, they only find out about it when you complain as a customer or when something terrible happens”.

Narrator: That’s Lethabo Motsoaledi, co-founder and CTO of Voyc. Voyc, spelt V-O-Y-C, is a South African AI software company that helps businesses automate monitoring of contact centre interactions and extract valuable insights.

At its core, what Voyc is doing isn’t necessarily new.

Lethabo Motsoaledi: “The call centre environment is very much full of large incumbents that pretty much do call recording software and technologies. If you run a call centre, you have traditionally very archaic software that does your call recordings. So they can do up to like 2 million recordings a month, never lose a call. 

In the previous years, those incumbents have started trying to look into speech analytics. They said ‘we store all your calls so we might as well start offering analytics for those calls’. Except the way in which they approached it  was similar to the way they approached a lot of things; it was very complex software, users don’t typically know how to use it and the analytics is not always as sharp as it needs to be, and it’s very much like a 6 to sometimes 18-month process before any of the analytics that you put into the system starts making sense for your company”.

Narrator: But Voyc has a different approach

Lethabo Motsoaledi: “So we approached it as, ‘we built some very easy, lightweight software that does some serious heavy lifting of machine learning and AI to analyse conversations.

Narrator: First, Voyc’s artificial intelligence automatically transcribes recorded calls to text. During the transcription, the software identifies any anomalies in a call, for example, a threat from a caller.

Lethabo Motsoaledi: “We use machine learning to pick up any key topics in the conversation so that.. An interesting example is a customer of ours that sells travel insurance. When Coronavirus hit, our unsupervised machine learning approach was able to pick up Coronavirus as a topic, to show that people were starting to be confused about the messaging around Coronavirus. So that’s what our unsupervised machine learning approach does.

We then also analyse emotion. That is, we l