BotlhaleAI, a South African startup that creates conversational AI tools for African languages, has won the startup of year award at the Africa Tech Festival awards in Cape Town, South Africa.  The award, the biggest of the night, recognises startups who contribute to technological advancement, exposing them to potential investors and partners attending the event.

“We have seen positive growth across the business over the last year and we are glad to see our work recognised,” co founder Thapelo Nthite told TechCabal. “Our goal is to create AI solutions which will enable accessibility for African people.”


Founded in 2019 by Thapelo Nthite, Sange Maxaku, and Xolisani Nkwentsha, the startup has numerous accolades including being part of the nVidia Inception Program, the Grindstone Accelerator program and winner of the DataHack4I Innovation award. Its products have been adopted by some of South Africa’s leading companies including MTN and Ubiquity.

Nthite also added that BotlhaleAI will be embarking on fundraising early next year to scale its offering across the continent. According to data from Google Trends, South Africans’ interest in artificial intelligence is on the rise, presenting an opportunity for companies like Botlhale AI to achieve scale.

In July 2023, following increasing interest in AI in the country, the South African Artificial Intelligence Association (SAAIA) was launched in partnership with the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT). The body aims to promote responsible AI adoption for commercial and societal benefit in South Africa as well as attract foreign direct investment, facilitate international market access for African tech companies, and showcase South African AI innovation.

Some of the founding members of the association include Google, the University of Johannesburg, the Western Cape Government, and the Gauteng Tourism Authority.

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