It has been a short four months since OpenAI launched ChatGPT, the chatbot that has elevated the obscure technical field of AI into the public domain in a massive way. And because the majority now see it as the “next frontier” of software technology, AI takes are now a dime a dozen. Chances are that you’ve seen at least one Twitter thread telling you how to make millions of dollars with ChatGPT. It has become the butt-end and chief topic of Twitter spats, venture capitalist debate, and activist commentary.
In all of this, the dominant narrative is that Africa is missing in the AI conversation. But that’s not true, as we’ll see in this article. OpenAI’s products, such as ChatGPT and Midjourney, might be the poster boys. But similar chatbots have been springing up in Africa, albeit more silently. One notable trend among them is how they function on social messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram. This method makes adoption easy since WhatsApp is practically ubiquitous in Africa. Statista says approximately 95% of South Africa’s internet users use WhatsApp every month and it has a popularity score of 92% among Nigerians
Here are a few chatbots built by Africans that can function in ChatGPT’s stead.
Kainene vos Savant
Justin Irabor, a Nigerian developer, built Kainene vos Savant this year, and the chatbot is quickly gaining traction on social media. Kainene vos Savant (named after Marilyn vos Savant) connects with users with a charismatic and relatable style similar to ChatGPT. But unlike ChatGPT, it operates on Telegram. Also, its tone and presentation style is a bit more informal and playful than ChatGPT’s. It uses casual language and incorporates a lot of slang into its responses. But the overall difference is that Justin Irabor built Kainene vos Savant to function primarily as a study companion, not a generalist like ChatGPT.
FoondaMate is an AI robot you can chat with on WhatsApp and Facebook messenger. Its primary function is to provide quick answers to school-related questions. So it can help you answer questions, do homework or study. It can also explain maths questions to you by going through them step by step. The chatbot also gives access to online learning resources in multiple languages.
A fun fact about the South African chatbot is that it is older than ChatGPT. Tao Boyle and Dacod Magagula founded Foondamate in 2020, and it has now gained over 1 million users across over 30 countries. Foondamate also made the news last year when it raised $2 million in seed funding.
MobileGPT is your ChatGPT on WhatsApp. It leverages the power of OpenAI’s technology to allow users to generate documents, create AI images, and interact with a personal AI assistant on WhatsApp. Bertha Kgokong founded MobileGPT to bring the generative AI experience closer to African users. It has the same interactive tone as ChatGPT and features a streamlined document creation process.