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The digital tool aims to translate 2,000 African languages – SciDev.Net Sub-Saharan Africa



A digital platform called OBTranslate which aims to translate more than 2,000 African languages ​​to enable rural residents to get easy access to the global markets launched.

According to its innovators, 63 percent of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa does not have access to the global market due to language barriers.

"More than 52 native languages ​​in Africa have died of language and have no native speakers," added Emmanuel Gabriel, founder of Germany-based OpenBinacle, creator of OBTranslate, which was launched this month (May 1). "OBT translations can close the communication gap on this continent."

"In the next five years, we hope to get thousands or millions of users to carry out translation assignments in the OBT translation."

Emmanuel Gabriel, OpenBinacle

This innovation resulted from the previous messaging application that was built in 2017 to allow interaction in real-time translations from 26 African languages ​​but caused inaccurate results, Gabriel said.

"We are very frustrated about the messaging application, and as a result we don't want to come to the market with a bad product," Gabriel added. "We decided to start building our own translations that were assisted by computers and machine learning platforms and this gave birth to OBTranslate."

According to Pangeanic, a global translation company based in Spain, a computer-assisted translation tool converts text into smaller segments and can be translated to help translate effectively in a short time.

"The segment can be pulled back later and thus the translator ensures that the original terminology and writing style are followed," explained Pangeanic. "It also provides savings when material that requires translation is similar to previously translated material – you only pay for a portion of the sentence that has changed."

"We created OBTranslate with an innovative business model to ensure that this tool is sustainable to pay for everyone whose translation is very accurate," Gabriel said. "In the next five years, we hope to get thousands or millions of users to carry out translation assignments in the OBT translation."

Gabriel said that because of some technical problems that must be resolved first, the team has not activated real-time translation by public users.

"We work hard to ensure that when people present training material in African languages ​​… they don't need to tell the machine what to look for. System [should] find your own patterns such as contextual instructions around the source sentence, "he explained.

OpenBinacle has received infrastructure worth US $ 100,000 from French cloud computing companies named OVH, Amazon and Google, and is exploring funding opportunities to filter OBT translations, he added.

Gabriel urges African policy makers and the private sector to consider investing in the OBT translation because it can contribute positively to improving the African economy and efforts to create jobs.

Bukunmi Seweje, director of operations, Compucode Limited, Nigeria, said that OBTranslate can enable smooth business relations in Africa.

But to make innovation more user-friendly and accessible, Seweje added that it must be integrated into existing communication platforms such as WhatsApp.

This work was produced by the SciDev.Net Sub-Saharan African table.


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