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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

25-year-old African Scientist invents AI machine that cures Malaria, wins $8,000 national award

A 25-year-old African Scientist named Rokhaya Diagne has invented an AI machine that can cure Malaria and was awarded an 8,000 dollars worth of cash prize national award.

Rokhaya Diagne is a Senegalese who is a computer science major at Dakar American University of Science and Technology. She created a health startup that seeks to use artificial intelligence to help the world eradicate malaria. 

She won an award at an AI conference in Ghana and a national award in Senegal for social entrepreneurship with 8,000 dollars in funding. Rokhaya told the New York Times that her health startup aims to use Artificial Intelligence to help the world eradicate malaria by 2030.

Rokhaya stated that her current project was born out of her passion for video games. She said growing up, she would sneak into her brother’s room and spend long hours playing online computer games.


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“My mom said, ‘This is an addiction. She said if I didn’t stop, she would send me to the hospital to see a psychiatrist,” she said. Rokhaya said her mother’s intervention helped her to redirect her passion into something more productive and purposeful.

She said her result is her project to use AI to combat malaria, which kills millions worldwide. She stated that the focus of her project was also influenced by a range of childhood illnesses that landed her in Dakar hospitals.

Before embarking on her current project, she helped to create an award-winning networking app to meet others with similar interests (like Tinder) but for tech nerds. She also co-founded a start-up called ‘Afyasense’ for her disease-detection projects using AI.


Before she enrolled at Dakar American University of Science and Technology to study computer science, Rokhaya enrolled at the École Supérieure Polytechnique de Dakar as a biology major.

After an internship at the Principal Hospital of Dakar where she was reviewing lab samples, she discovered that it was not the kind of work for her. “I wanted way more challenges than fearing the bacteria in my body,” Rokhaya said.

“What I wanted was innovation and being able to create and use my brain for something instead of predictive results that I just followed,” she added. Rokhaya decided to drop out of school and spend the next year planning her next steps.

She considered studying bioinformatic and It was during the same time that the Dakar American University of Science and Technology opened and offered her in computer science.

She eventually decided computer science would provide a solid foundation for future studies in bioinformatics. Rokhaya said her journey towards designing a system to identify malaria cases has not been easy.

She mentioned that she struggled to get a lab in Senegal that would give her a large set of malaria-infected cells that she could train A.I. to read. Regardless, her school helped her to find a lab that gave her a cell data set that she fed into a deep learning tool, training it to spot positive cases.


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