Google NLP Hack Series: West Africa ASR Challenge
Calling on the Zindi community to train ASR models
$1 000 USD
Ended 12 months ago
11 active ยท 36 enrolled
West Africa
Automatic Speech Recognition

Speech technologies can enable interaction with services and applications that would be difficult to acquire and use via means other than voice. Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) systems are revolutionizing the possibilities in this area but are not yet widely available in African languages.

In this challenge, participants will have 1 week to build a speech recognition system, using an African language speech dataset that will be shared with them once the competition begins.

This West Africa ASR Challenge, hosted in partnership with Data Scientists Network (formerly Data Science Nigeria, DSN), is part of the Zindi Google NLP Hack Series which includes:

  1. Workshop & Hackathon Kickoff on 5 February
  2. After the workshop, you will have one week to practice your ASR skills on a real dataset.
  3. After this West Africa ASR Challenge, an Intro to ASR Africa Challenge will open where participants will collect their own ASR datasets and get a tutorial on how to train models on the at data in a beginner-friendly way using ELPIS.

The West Africa ASR Challenge is a private challenge open to participants in West Africa. If you are in West Africa and would like to participate, please fill out this form.

The subsequent Intro to ASR Africa Challenge is open to all. We encourage you to also sign up for the follow-up challenge to learn about collecting ASR data to complement the model training you will do in this first challenge (same registration form, just check the box for both challenges).

In addition to increasing awareness of speech technologies, this hack series will raise awareness and appreciation for good quality, clean datasets in local languages, generate datasets in African languages that are open-sourced, and lower the entry barrier for participants to run their own ASR models.

About Data Scientists Network (DSN) (

Data Scientists Network (DSN) is a frontline Artificial Intelligence (AI) social enterprise committed to driving solution-oriented application of Artificial Intelligence in Nigeria, with focus on building world-class AI knowledge, research and innovation ecosystem that delivers transformational research, business use applications, AI-first start-ups, employability and social good use cases.

Our commitment is to raise 1 million Al talents and build Al solutions that improve the quality of life and wellbeing of 2 billion people in emerging market, with our renewed focus delivering on this vision through community for learning and research,  product development for social impact and partnerships for solution delivery.

About Google (

Our goal in Google Research is to make Google's technologies, including automatic speech recognition (ASR) technologies, work great for everyone on the planet. Our team is a mix of linguists, program managers, engineers and researchers, addressing many exciting and unprecedented internationalization challenges. We have a huge commitment to the diversity of our users, and have made it a priority to deliver the best performance to every language on the planet. We currently have systems operating in more than 71 languages, and we continue to expand our reach to more users.

Workshop & Details

To join the workshop please fill out this form.

West Africa ASR Challenge

The aim of the challenge is to build a speech recognition system. All participants will be provided with the same dataset, which will be made available once the competition begins. Participants can build a system by training their own model (using publicly-available, open-source packages only), or use a pre-trained model found online. If using pretrained models, they must be openly available to everyone. Automated machine learning tools such as automl are not permitted.

Winners will be awarded based on the word error rate of the models they submit. You can read more about WER in this medium article.

Workshop Sessions

Date: February 5th, 2022 (13:00-17:00 WAT)

To kick off the Zindi Google NLP Hack Series, we will be hosting a live event which will include an introduction from host organizations, a workshop that will cover key topics in NLP and ASR, guidance on what makes a good dataset, and an overview of ASR model training.

You will be invited to the workshop via a calendar event using your registration email. For those who cannot attend the live event, the workshop will be recorded and later uploaded to Zindi’s YouTube channel.


The evaluation metric for this challenge is Word Error Rate.

You can read more about WER in this medium article. Here are some libraries to start off with.

For every row in the dataset, submission files should contain 2 columns: ID and transcription.

Your submission file should look like this:

ID               Transcription
ID_gh7rya9       The Transcription

5 Winners total: 1 winner, from each of these 5 country/regions in West Africa, will receive $200 each: Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Ivory Coast, and Other countries in West Africa. Winners of this challenge agree to open source their models on their Github account.


The workshop is on Saturday, 5 February from 13:00-17:00 WAT. You can register for the workshop using this form.

This challenge closes on 13 February 2022.

Final submissions must be received by 11:59 PM GMT.

We reserve the right to update the contest timeline if necessary.


To participate in this workshop please fill out this form.

Teams and collaboration

You may participate in competitions as an individual or in a team of up to four people. When creating a team, the team must have a total submission count less than or equal to the maximum allowable submissions as of the formation date. A team will be allowed the maximum number of submissions for the competition, minus the total number of submissions among team members at team formation. Prizes are transferred only to the individual players or to the team leader.

Multiple accounts per user are not permitted, and neither is collaboration or membership across multiple teams. Individuals and their submissions originating from multiple accounts will be immediately disqualified from the platform.

Code must not be shared privately outside of a team. Any code that is shared, must be made available to all competition participants through the platform. (i.e. on the discussion boards).

The Zindi user who sets up a team is the default Team Leader. The Team Leader can invite other data scientists to their team. Invited data scientists can accept or reject invitations. Until a second data scientist accepts an invitation to join a team, the data scientist who initiated a team remains an individual on the leaderboard. No additional members may be added to teams within the final 5 days of the competition or the last hour of a hackathon, unless otherwise stated in the competition rules

A team can be disbanded if it has not yet made a submission. Once a submission is made individual members cannot leave the team.

All members in the team receive points associated with their ranking in the competition and there is no split or division of the points between team members.

Datasets and packages

The solution must use publicly-available, open-source packages only. You may use pretrained models if they are openly available to everyone.

You may use only the datasets provided for this competition. Automated machine learning tools such as automl are not permitted.

You must notify Zindi immediately upon learning of any unauthorised transmission of or unauthorised access to the competition data, and work with Zindi to rectify any unauthorised transmission or access.

Your solution must not infringe the rights of any third party and you must be legally entitled to assign ownership of all rights of copyright in and to the winning solution code to Zindi.

Submissions and winning

You may make a maximum of 10 submissions per day.

You may make a maximum of 70 submissions for this competition.

Before the end of the competition you need to choose 2 submissions to be judged on for the private leaderboard. If you do not make a selection your 2 best public leaderboard submissions will be used to score on the private leaderboard.

Zindi maintains a public leaderboard and a private leaderboard for each competition. The Public Leaderboard includes approximately 50% of the test dataset. While the competition is open, the Public Leaderboard will rank the submitted solutions by the accuracy score they achieve. Upon close of the competition, the Private Leaderboard, which covers the other 50% of the test dataset, will be made public and will constitute the final ranking for the competition.

Note that to count, your submission must first pass processing. If your submission fails during the processing step, it will not be counted and not receive a score; nor will it count against your daily submission limit. If you encounter problems with your submission file, your best course of action is to ask for advice on the Competition’s discussion forum.

If you are in the top 20 at the time the leaderboard closes, we will email you to request your code. On receipt of email, you will have 48 hours to respond and submit your code following the submission guidelines detailed below. Failure to respond will result in disqualification.

If your solution is a regional winner, you will be required to submit your winning solution code to us for verification, and you thereby agree to assign all worldwide rights of copyright in and to such winning solution to Zindi.

If two solutions earn identical scores on the leaderboard, the tiebreaker will be the date and time in which the submission was made (the earlier solution will win).

The winners will be paid via bank transfer, PayPal, or other international money transfer platform. International transfer fees will be deducted from the total prize amount, unless the prize money is under $500, in which case the international transfer fees will be covered by Zindi. In all cases, the winners are responsible for any other fees applied by their own bank or other institution for receiving the prize money. All taxes imposed on prizes are the sole responsibility of the winners. All winners will be required to present Zindi with proof of identification, proof of residence and a letter from your bank confirming your banking details. Winners will be paid in USD or the currency of the competition. If your account cannot receive US Dollars or the currency of the competition then your bank will need to provide proof of this and Zindi will try to accommodate this.

Please note that due to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, we are not currently able to make prize payments to winners located in Russia. We apologise for any inconvenience that may cause, and will handle any issues that arise on a case-by-case basis.

Payment will be made after code review and an introductory call with the host.

You acknowledge and agree that Zindi may, without any obligation to do so, remove or disqualify an individual, team, or account if Zindi believes that such individual, team, or account is in violation of these rules. Entry into this competition constitutes your acceptance of these official competition rules.

Zindi is committed to providing solutions of value to our clients and partners. To this end, we reserve the right to disqualify your submission on the grounds of usability or value. This includes but is not limited to the use of data leaks or any other practices that we deem to compromise the inherent value of your solution.

Zindi also reserves the right to disqualify you and/or your submissions from any competition if we believe that you violated the rules or violated the spirit of the competition or the platform in any other way. The disqualifications are irrespective of your position on the leaderboard and completely at the discretion of Zindi.

Please refer to the FAQs and Terms of Use for additional rules that may apply to this competition. We reserve the right to update these rules at any time.

Reproducibility of submitted code

  • If your submitted code does not reproduce your score on the leaderboard, we reserve the right to adjust your rank to the score generated by the code you submitted.
  • If your code does not run you will be dropped from the top 10. Please make sure your code runs before submitting your solution.
  • Always set the seed. Rerunning your model should always place you at the same position on the leaderboard. When running your solution, if randomness shifts you down the leaderboard we reserve the right to adjust your rank to the closest score that your submission reproduces.
  • We expect full documentation. This includes:
  • All data used
  • Output data and where they are stored
  • Explanation of features used
  • A requirements file with all packages and versions used
  • Your solution must include the original data provided by Zindi and validated external data (if allowed)
  • All editing of data must be done in a notebook (i.e. not manually in Excel)
  • Environment code to be run. (e.g. Google Colab or the specifications of your local machine)
  • Expected run time for each notebook. This will be useful to the review team for time and resource allocation.

Data standards:

  • Your submitted code must run on the original train, test, and other datasets provided. Data from the test set may not be used to train your model.
  • Packages:
  • You must submit a requirements file with all packages and versions used.
  • If a requirements file is not provided, solutions will be run on the most recent packages available.
  • Custom packages in your submission notebook will not be accepted.
  • You may only use tools available to everyone i.e. no paid services or free trials that require a credit card.

Consequences of breaking any rules of the competition or submission guidelines:

  • First offence: No prizes for 6 months and 2000 points will be removed from your profile (probation period). If you are caught cheating, all individuals involved in cheating will be disqualified from the challenge(s) you were caught in and you will be disqualified from winning any competitions for the next six months and 2000 points will be removed from your profile. If you have less than 2000 points to your profile your points will be set to 0.
  • Second offence: Banned from the platform. If you are caught for a second time your Zindi account will be disabled and you will be disqualified from winning any competitions or Zindi points using any other account.
  • Teams with individuals who are caught cheating will not be eligible to win prizes or points in the competition in which the cheating occurred, regardless of the individuals’ knowledge of or participation in the offence.
  • Teams with individuals who have previously committed an offence will not be eligible for any prizes for any competitions during the 6-month probation period.

Monitoring of submissions

  • We will review the top 10 solutions of every competition when the competition ends.
  • We reserve the right to request code from any user at any time during a challenge. You will have 24 hours to submit your code following the rules for code review (see above). Zindi reserves the right not to explain our reasons for requesting code. If you do not submit your code within 24 hours you will be disqualified from winning any competitions or Zindi points for the next six months. If you fall under suspicion again and your code is requested and you fail to submit your code within 24 hours, your Zindi account will be disabled and you will be disqualified from winning any competitions or Zindi points with any other account.