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This crowdsourced phrasebook app wants to help South Africans understand each other

South Africa, like our ever globalising world, is made up of a really diverse bunch. It’s colourful but often messy. This is where Aweza steps in. It’s a novel app that wants to help people better communicate and understand each other.

Developed in Cape Town, Aweza is a phrasebook app which essentially pairs pictures with common phrases. It relies on crowdsourcing and gamification techniques to ensure correct pronunciations of South Africa’s 11 languages. Pretty cool, right?

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But for the guys currently behind this project — Glen Stein, Jeanne Fourie and Farrel Strul — it’s more than an educational product. It’s about building a community, bringing people together.

Read more: 15 creative edtech startups empowering Africa’s learners

While Aweza was introduced in 2014 with South Africa’s many languages in mind, its applications extend well beyond the country’s borders. This sentiment was reaffirmed when the company was recently invited to present its product at the Netexplo conference in Paris.

“Aweza could be applicable to Syrian refugees in Hungary. That’s just one example of the things I’m really passionate about exploring,” says Stein, who’s the main brain behind the app.

Stein funded the entire project himself, and although Aweza received great responses from the media, there was no monetisation plan in place. “We had no marketing budget whatsoever. What we did have was a concept that resonated with a lot of people,” he says.

Read more: Durban elearning startup Advantage Learn takes top honours

“If your concept is strong enough and strikes the right emotional chords, it can speak for itself,” Stein adds.

About one year in, Stein’s search for funding opportunities had taken a back seat when he realised he needed to look after himself and get a job as a developer. This became a blessing in disguise.

Stein ended up joining Cape Town edtech company Fast Maths, which is building a platform that facilitates content delivery, assessment, gamification and adaptive learning.

Today, Aweza and Fast Maths are married.

So while Fast Maths can help with improving numeracy, explains Stein, Aweza can help with tackling literacy:

If we look at the burning needs of education and what’s going on in this country, I think this is probably one of the biggest needs that should be tended to. And one of the bigger contributing factors to our poor education is poor literacy and poor numeracy.

Stein adds that it’s his dream that this tech really impacts people’s lives. “Moving the needle, whatever tiny dent we can make in the world’s problem is something. If we can reach five percent of the students who are facing this problem in South Africa, we’re doing something huge.”

While the team isn’t that keen on having launch dates set in stone, we’re likely to see a revamped launch of the Aweza app later this year.

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