“Without knowledge action is useless and knowledge without action is futile.” — Abu Bakr as-Șiddīq


Technology & Innovation


University of Cambridge

Nabeel Seedat, 28, is an artificial intelligence (AI) expert. He has worked in academic research publishing numerous papers in leading AI conferences as well as in the industry delivering real AI products.

A PhD student researcher at the University of Cambridge, Nabeel is reimagining how technology can improve people’s lives, specifically improving healthcare delivery using AI. His research has built tools to improve the safety and trustworthiness of AI tools to help doctors make better decisions.

Over the past few years, he worked as a machine learning engineer at Multichoice (SA) and Shutterstock (US) building innovative AI systems which serve millions daily. Prior to his time in industry, Nabeel received a merit scholarship to pursue a master’s in AI at Cornell University (US).

There he worked with Microsoft on an AI system to help people with visual impairments to better engage with social media content. In addition, he completed a master’s at Wits University, where he won a National Research Foundation grant to develop a low-cost solution using AI to automate the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease for low-resource healthcare settings.

He has also developed an affordable robotic prosthetic hand for amputees. “South Africa should be at the forefront of AI development rather than mere consumers, ensuring that homegrown solutions cater to our unique perspectives and needs,” he says.

  • PhD candidate: University of Cambridge (in progress)
  • MSc, Engineering and Machine Learning: Cornell University, US
  • MSc, Engineering: Signal Processing: University of the Witwatersrand
  • BSc, Information Engineering: University of the Witwatersrand
  • Bachelor of Engineering in Biomedical Engineering, University of the Witwatersrand

  • Research publications at top international AI conferences
  • Full PhD fellowship at the University of Cambridge
  • Cornell University Merit Scholarship
  • National Research Foundation (NRF) Research fellowship/grant
  • Top undergraduate student at Wits University: Electrical & Information Engineering 
  • Developed a low-cost robotic prosthetic hand to help amputees which was widely covered by South African media 
  • Chairperson of the Muslim Students Association at Wits University 
  • South African Debating Best Speaker

Born three months premature, I was consistently smaller than my peers. Though I often finished last in sports, my parents never stopped cheering me on. Their unwavering support inspired me to excel in areas where physical strength isn’t paramount and to make their encouragement truly worthwhile.

Always back yourself, embracing both victories and inevitable setbacks and failures. Remember, you don’t have to go in alone — collaboration and learning from others can work wonders both to grow as an individual but also propel your ideas to greater heights.

I’d love to see South Africa wholeheartedly embracing AI technology across various sectors, as a tool for improved processes and enhanced quality of life. More importantly, South Africa should be at the forefront of AI development rather than mere consumers, ensuring that homegrown solutions cater to our unique perspectives and needs. This approach would maximise the positive impact of AI on our society and propel us toward a brighter future.

View previous winners from 2018 to 2022

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