Report from PyCon Zimbabwe 2018

The 3rd edition of Pycon Zimbabwe was held from the 19th to the 20th of October, 2018 under the theme: “For the community, by the community”.

The conference was hosted at Cresta Oasis Hotel in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Attendees

PyCon Zimbabwe 2018 attracted 80 delegates from around Zimbabwe, the USA and South Africa. The delegates included university students, lecturers, professionals and hobbyists.

Talks and Workshops

The first day of the conference was dedicated to talks which covered a variety of subjects that included topics on machine learning, solving financial problems with Python and blockchain technologies among others. The talks included:

  • Python and the AI revolution – Dr Panashe of the University of Zimbabwe took delegates on the future of Machine Learning with Python
  • Bit Mari Smart Contracts with Python – Tongayi Choto shared how they are using block chain technology with python to help small scale farmers in Zimbabwe to access capital.
  • Graphql and Python – Wedzerayi Muyengwa from Steward Bank took the audience through the journey of creating apis with flask and graphl.
  • Geo-spatial Data in Python and PostgreSQL – Nick Doiron of McKinsey and Company conducted a workshop on how to make interactive maps with Python and PostgreSQL database management system.
  • Components and configuration in Reahl – by Iwan Vosloo

The second day of the conference was dedicated to workshops and tutorials. Delegates were taken through practial tutorials on deep learning, data science with Tensorflow and creating interactive maps with Python and Postgresql.

On the final day Bit Mari, a local startup sponsored prices for a hackathon which was held to come up with solutions for small scale traders based in the high density areas of Harare using Python.

Sponsorship

The third edition of PyCon Zimbabwe would not have happened had it not been for the generosity of the Django Software Foundation. With the prevailing, unfavorable economic situation in Zimbabwe, we almost cancelled the conference. We were unfortunate that a financial crisis of high magnitude manifested itself towards the days of the conference and threw our initial plans into disarray as local companies were not keen to support as they wanted the situation to improve first.

Despite this however, with the support we got from the DSF we were able to convene the best conference to date since the inception of PyCon Zimbabwe in 2016. With the financial support we got from the DSF we were able to heavily subsidize the tickets whose value had been eroded overnight by the financial crisis. We also managed to secure a decent venue for the 2 day convention. We were also able to provide financial assistance to some of the delegates who included 15 women.

Takeaways

The Python Zimbabwe community is alive and growing. The 2018 conference was dominated by new comers. More than half of the attendees were people who had never attended the first two conferences in 2016 and 2017. At the conference we discovered other interest groups such as the Harare School of AI and BitMari Inc who are doing amazing things with Python.

Present at the conference was a local fintech startup, Bitmari, who added diversity to the discussions with their activities on block-chain and bitcoin. They sponsored a hackathlon with the hope of working with some of the participants. For us, the organizers this is a success as it achieves one of our goals, which is to expose local python developers to the world and potential recruiters.
We also had professionals from a local banking institution, whom we hope to work with next year in organizing the next conference.

The conference also exposed another group of enthusiastic python developers: Geo-spatial data scientists, from the Forestry Commission and some from the University of Zimbabwe who attended Nick Doiron’s workshop.

Finally we would like to thank DSF for partnering with us as we managed to host a very successful PyCon Zimbabwe 2018.

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