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Microsoft and Ovamba partner natural language solutions for African SMEs

11th Oct 17 2:59 pm

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Ovamba Solutions, Inc. and Microsoft have partnered to develop and produce the first African language driven “chat-bot” designed to serve the millions of African SMEs who face exclusion from Financial Services due to the challenges of functional and business literacy.  The Chat-Bot was conceived, designed and created by Ovamba and Microsoft and will be rolled out via Ovamba’s mobile app, ‘Ovamba Plus.’

Ovamba’s President & Co-founder, Viola Llewellyn, and Chief Technology Officer, Prashant Mahajan expressed their innovative ambitions to Josh Holmes, Director of ‘Microsoft Partner Catalyst’ Division at Microsoft’s Seattle, Washington campus.  

In delving into the challenges of FinTech solutions on the African continent, Viola Llewellyn explained to Microsoft: “Current banking processes and some FinTech solutions are supposed to help the financially disenfranchised. 

“Bank solutions, application forms and contracts assume that all SMES are fully literate, and actually end up further alienating those who may not be able to read or speak French, English, Arabic or any other colonial language.  If we don’t address this then we are missing the true promise of FinTech and the opportunity to include the informal sector in GDP count.”

In response to the opportunity to serve the African Continent, Microsoft put a team together headed up by Shawn Cicoria, Lilian Kasem and Claudius Mbemba to help Ovamba create the chat-bot.  Prashant Mahajan led Ovamba’s tech team on the project and commented on the potential to help the millions who need support to grow. 

Mahajan said: “Ovamba has been supporting SMEs with “Growth-As-A-Service®” for the last year and realizes that business training and formal education is a luxury not afforded to some members of Africa’s entrepreneurial sector, and is often taught in western languages. 

“We can help them to sustain growth by delivering business support and training in the language that they are most used to.”

Claudius Mbemba shared the Partner Catalyst Team’s enthusiasm for the project on the Microsoft Developer Blog stating, “We plan to continue our work with Ovamba, especially building an African dialect language recognition system to enable application localization and cater to the specific dialects of their customers”.  The team also added, “We look forward to tackling these challenges and more in our future work with Ovamba.”

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