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IrokoBench: A New Benchmark for African Languages in the Age of Large Language Models

AUTHORS

David Ifeoluwa Adelani, Jessica Ojo, Israel Abebe Azime, Jian Yun Zhuang, Jesujoba O. Alabi, Xuanli He, Millicent Ochieng, Sara Hooker, Andiswa Bukula, En-Shiun Annie Lee, Chiamaka Chukwuneke, Happy Buzaaba, Blessing Sibanda, Godson Kalipe, Jonathan Mukiibi, Salomon Kabongo, Foutse Yuehgoh, Mmasibidi Setaka, Lolwethu Ndolela, Nkiruka Odu, Rooweither Mabuya, Shamsuddeen Hassan Muhammad, Salomey Osei, Sokhar Samb, Tadesse Kebede Guge, Pontus Stenetorp

ABSTRACT

Despite the widespread adoption of Large language models (LLMs), their remarkable capabilities remain limited to a few high-resource languages. Additionally, many low-resource languages (e.g. African languages) are often evaluated only on basic text classification tasks due to the lack of appropriate or comprehensive benchmarks outside of high-resource languages. In this paper, we introduce IrokoBench -- a human-translated benchmark dataset for 16 typologically-diverse low-resource African languages covering three tasks: natural language inference~(AfriXNLI), mathematical reasoning~(AfriMGSM), and multi-choice knowledge-based QA~(AfriMMLU). We use IrokoBench to evaluate zero-shot, few-shot, and translate-test settings~(where test sets are translated into English) across 10 open and four proprietary LLMs. Our evaluation reveals a significant performance gap between high-resource languages~(such as English and French) and low-resource African languages. We observe a significant performance gap between open and proprietary models, with the highest performing open model, Aya-101 only at 58\% of the best-performing proprietary model GPT-4o performance. Machine translating the test set to English before evaluation helped to close the gap for larger models that are English-centric, like LLaMa 3 70B. These findings suggest that more efforts are needed to develop and adapt LLMs for African languages.