Despite the progress we have recorded in scaling multilingual machine translation (MT) models and evaluation data to several under-resourced African languages, it is difficult to measure accurately the progress we have made on these languages because evaluation is often performed on n-gram matching metrics like BLEU that often have worse correlation with human judgments. Embedding-based metrics such as COMET correlate better; however, lack of evaluation data with human ratings for under-resourced languages, complexity of annotation guidelines like Multidimensional Quality Metrics (MQM), and limited language coverage of multilingual encoders have hampered their applicability to African languages. In this paper, we address these challenges by creating high-quality human evaluation data with a simplified MQM guideline for error-span annotation and direct assessment (DA) scoring for 13 typologically diverse African languages. Furthermore, we develop AfriCOMET, a COMET evaluation metric for African languages by leveraging DA training data from high-resource languages and African-centric multilingual encoder (AfroXLM-Roberta) to create the state-of-the-art evaluation metric for African languages MT with respect to Spearman-rank correlation with human judgments (+0.406).
African languages have far less in-language content available digitally, making it challenging for question answering systems to satisfy the information needs of users. Cross-lingual open-retrieval question answering (XOR QA) systems -- those that retrieve answer content from other languages while serving people in their native language -- offer a means of filling this gap. To this end, we create AfriQA, the first cross-lingual QA dataset with a focus on African languages. AfriQA includes 12,000+ XOR QA examples across 10 African languages. While previous datasets have focused primarily on languages where cross-lingual QA augments coverage from the target language, AfriQA focuses on languages where cross-lingual answer content is the only high-coverage source of answer content. Because of this, we argue that African languages are one of the most important and realistic use cases for XOR QA. Our experiments demonstrate the poor performance of automatic translation and multilingual retrieval methods. Overall, AfriQA proves challenging for state-of-the-art QA models. We hope that the dataset enables the development of more equitable QA technology.