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Malawi News Classification -An NLP Project

Last Updated on September 3, 2021 by Editorial Team

Author(s): Abid Ali Awan

Natural Language Processing

Using text classifier to predict various categories in Malawi News articles using SMOTE and SGDClassifier.

Photo by Obi Onyeador on Unsplash


Text classification is common among the applications we use on daily basis. For example, email providers use text classification to filter out spam emails from your inbox. The other most common use of text classification is in customer care where they use sentimental analysis to differentiate bad reviews from good reviews ADDI AI 2050. The modern use of text classification has excelled to more advanced forms of classification which includes multilanguage and multilabel classification.

Text classification example of spam filter | ADDI AI 2050

In recent years, the English language has come a long way, but training classification models on low resource language and varying lengths still pose difficulties. In this Zindi competition, we are provided with news articles written in the Chichewa language and train our model on multi-label classification as there are 19 categories of News. The texts are made up of news articles of varying lengths so figuring out a better model will be a challenging task. — Zindi.

Zindi Competition | AI4D Malawi News Classification Challenge

The project code is simple and effective on competitive grounds. I have experimented with Vectorizer, Porter stemmer for test preprocessing. I have also used multiple methods to clean my text to improved overall model performance. In the end, I have used SKlearn Stochastic Gradient Decent (SGD) classifier for predicting News categories. I have also experimented with various neural networks and gradient boosting models, but they all failed as simple logistics regression with minimum hyperparameter tunning works quite well on this data.


Deepnote environment was used to train the classification model.

Import Libraries

from sklearn.feature_extraction.text import TfidfVectorizer
from sklearn.metrics import accuracy_score, classification_report, confusion_matrix
from sklearn.model_selection import train_test_split
from sklearn.linear_model import SGDClassifier
from sklearn.preprocessing import LabelEncoder
from nltk.stem import WordNetLemmatizer
from imblearn.over_sampling import SMOTE
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
import seaborn as sns
import pandas as pd
import numpy as np
import re
import warnings

Read Train/ Test Dataset

The data was collected from various news publishing companies in Malawi. tNyasa Ltd Data Science Lab has used three main broadcasters: the Nation Online newspaper, Radio Maria, and the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation — Zindi.
The Training Data contains three columns:

  • ID: Unique Identifier
  • Text: news articles
  • Label: classifications of news articles.

The task is to classify the news articles into one of 19 categories.

As you can see train data have 1436 samples whereas the test data set to have 620 samples.

train_data = pd.read_csv("../input/malawi-news-classification-challenge/Train.csv")
test_data = pd.read_csv("../input/malawi-news-classification-challenge/Test.csv")
>> (1436, 3)
>> (620, 2)

Let’s see the top two columns


Let’s see the bottom two columns


Let’s see the Train Dataset label distribution

It is evident that we have unbalanced distribution of classes which can cause problems during machine learning model training. The POLITICS category takes the lead in our train dataset.

Image by Author | Figure 1

Cleaning Text

  • Removing special characters.
  • Lowering text.
  • Lemmatizing words.
wn = WordNetLemmatizer()
def text_preprocessing(review):
review = re.sub('[^a-zA-Z]', ' ', review)
review = review.lower()
review = review.split()
review = [wn.lemmatize(word) for word in review if not word in chichewa]
review = ' '.join(review)
return review

Applying the text preprocessing

Simply applying the above function on both test and train datasets.

train_data['Text'] = train_data['Text'].apply(text_preprocessing)
test_data['Text'] = test_data['Text'].apply(text_preprocessing)

View Output

As you can see, we have much cleaner text, which is ready to be trained on our model.

Text Vectorization

Term Frequency Inverse Document Frequency (TFIDF). The algorithm converts text data into a meaningful representation of numbers Medium. The transformation is necessary as the machine learning model doesn’t understand text data, so we need to convert the data into a numerical format. We will be converting our text data into vectors using SKlearn TFIDF transformation and our final data shape will have 49480 columns/features.

vectorizer = TfidfVectorizer()
X = vectorizer.fit_transform(train_data['Text']).toarray()
training = pd.DataFrame(X, columns=vectorizer.get_feature_names())
X_test_final = vectorizer.transform(test_data['Text']).toarray()
test_new = pd.DataFrame(X_test_final, columns=vectorizer.get_feature_names())
>> (1436, 49480)
>> (620, 49480)

Preparing Data for Training

Using our train data to get X (training features) and y(Target). We will be using Label encoding to convert string labels into numerical labels such as [1,2,3….]

X = training 
y = train_data['Label']

Label Encoding

label_encoder = LabelEncoder() 
y_label = label_encoder.fit_transform(y)

Our data is quite unbalanced as shown in Figure 1. Politics categories have the highest number of samples, after that social and religion. This imbalance of data will cause our model to perform worst, so to improve model performance, we must balance our data by either removing extra samples or using the Synthetic Minority Over-sampling Technique (SMOTE). SMOTE is an oversampling technique where the synthetic samples are generated for the minority class (

In our case, all the minority classes will be synthesized to match majority class Politics. As you can see, all of the classes have the same number of samples, which is perfectly balanced.

smote = SMOTE() 
X, y_label = smote.fit_resample(X,y_label) np.bincount(y_label)
>> array([279, 279, 279, 279, 279, 279, 279, 279, 279, 279, 279, 279, 279, 279, 279, 279, 279, 279, 279, 279])

Training Model

I have used:

but they all failed in comparing to SGD. In short, using SGD classification with simple hyperparameter tuning will give you the best results. This estimator implements regularized linear models with stochastic gradient descent (SGD) learning sklearn.linear_model.SGDClassifier.

  • Splitting into Train and Test: 10%Testing dataset
  • Using SGDClassifier: Use loss function as a hinge with alpha=0.0004, max_iter=20
X_train, X_test, y_train, y_test = train_test_split(X, y_label, test_size=0.1, random_state=0)
model = SGDClassifier(loss='hinge',
verbose=False), y_train)
>> SGDClassifier(alpha=0.0004, max_iter=20, verbose=False)


Our model performed quite well with oversampling technique.

The training model without SMOTE got the highest accuracy of 55%.

pred = model.predict(X_test)
print("Train Accuracy Score:",round(model.score(X_train, y_train),2))
print("Test Accuracy Score:",round(accuracy_score(y_test, pred),2))
Train Accuracy Score: 0.99
Test Accuracy Score: 0.95

Classification Report

The classification report for every class is also amazing as the majority of the f1-score is between 90 to 100 percentages.

print(classification_report(y_test, pred))
                 precision  recall  f1-score   support
           0       1.00      1.00      1.00        30
1 1.00 1.00 1.00 25
2 0.96 0.83 0.89 29
3 0.92 1.00 0.96 22
4 0.97 1.00 0.98 29
5 1.00 1.00 1.00 29
6 0.87 0.90 0.89 30
7 0.90 0.93 0.92 30
8 0.95 1.00 0.98 20
9 1.00 1.00 1.00 37
10 1.00 1.00 1.00 25
11 0.90 0.75 0.82 24
12 1.00 1.00 1.00 31
13 0.79 0.92 0.85 25
14 0.82 0.62 0.71 29
15 0.95 0.95 0.95 19
16 1.00 1.00 1.00 30
17 0.94 1.00 0.97 32
18 0.91 1.00 0.95 30
19 1.00 1.00 1.00 32
    accuracy                           0.95       558
macro avg 0.94 0.94 0.94 558
weighted avg 0.95 0.95 0.94 558

Confusion Matrix

We have an almost perfect confusion matric on the test dataset as you can see in Figure 2.

test_pred = label_encoder.inverse_transform(pred)
test_label = label_encoder.inverse_transform(y_test)
cf_matrix = confusion_matrix(test_pred, test_label)
sns.heatmap(cf_matrix, annot=True;
Confusion Matrix by Author | Figure 2


It’s time to predict on the test database and create our CVS file. This file will be uploaded to the Zindi server for the final score on the hidden test dataset.

sub_pred = model.predict(test_new)
submission = pd.DataFrame()
submission['ID'] = test_data['ID']
submission['Label'] = label_encoder.inverse_transform(sub_pred)
submission.to_csv('submission.csv', index=False)
Image by Author


We got a quite bad score on the test dataset. It seems my model is overfitting on both train and validation. This is the best score I got with oversampling, even though my model is overfitting, I got the best result by using SMOTE and SGDClassifier.

I had fun experimenting with various machine learning models from Neural networks to Automl, but the dataset was quite small and imbalanced to get a better score.

The winning solution got a 0.7 score.

Focusing on data should be a priority for getting better results. This article was quite simple and beginner-friendly so that anyone can get top 50 using my code.

You can follow me on LinkedIn and Polywork where I post amazing articles on data science and machine learning.

The media shown in this article are not owned by Analytics Vidhya and are used at the Author’s discretion.


Originally published at on August 11, 2021.

Malawi News Classification -An NLP Project was originally published in Towards AI on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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