UCT students to launch Naledi, the cutting edge banking assistant... and she speaks your language

The brains behind Naledi (from left) Thapelo Nthite, Bonolo Malebo, Xolisani Nkwentsha, Sange Maxaku. (Photo: University of Cape Town)
The brains behind Naledi (from left) Thapelo Nthite, Bonolo Malebo, Xolisani Nkwentsha, Sange Maxaku. (Photo: University of Cape Town)

A cutting edge virtual assistance for all things banking is in the pipeline over the coming months, as a group of University of Cape Town (UCT) students finalise the launch of "Naledi", a multilingual personal banking and financial management assistant powered by artificial intelligence that reaches users via WhatsApp.

Fourth-year mechatronics student Thapelo Nthite - together with peers Xolisani Nkwentsha, Sange Maxaku and Bonolo Malebo - has for over the past year been working on the development of the assistance service which offers assistance in English, isiXhosa, isiZulu and Setswana.

Nthite explains the attraction behind the assistance service as "wanting to find cutting edge, African solutions to problems the continent faces".

He speaks passionately about how language is often a barrier for many South Africans, particularly when it comes to banking and matters of finance.

To this end, Nthite says, once the service has been launched, more languages will be added.

"We want to enable other innovators in Africa and South Africa to enter a space of using human language for their solutions," he said of the language options.

"Because, as students, we were exposed to a lot of technology around us, we conceptualised the plan… it was long hours, trying to learn and immerse ourselves in the intricacies of how it would work because it’s powered by artificial intelligence.

"Naledi doesn’t only allow users to transact, she also tracks a user's spending and helps them work towards achieving their financial goals," said Nthite.

Once launched, users requiring assistance will have to log in, and their details will be captured on the system. Nthite assured users that their banking details would not be at risk, as they had airtight security measures.

The assistance service will be launched in the next few months, but in the run-up to the launch, some students have come on board to test the service while it is still being finetuned.

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