Bouarfa grew up in Meknes, Morocco. She then moved at the age of 17 to the University of Technology in Delft to study electrical engineering and specialise in statistical signal processing. In 2007, Bouarfa embarked on a PhD applying Machine Learning to predict surgical workflow and detect anomalies in real time. She applied her research directly to the operating table, predicting error and improving workflows. In her PhD, Bouarfa discovered that AI provides a strong framework for evidence-based medicine, using data to improve outcomes directly in the real-world environment outside of clinical trials and widely used controlled healthcare studies.
Bouarfa has founded OKRA Technologies, a company which uses its machine learning platform to improve healthcare outcomes. The OKRA AI engine is used by some of the world's biggest pharmaceutical companies to transform complex datasets into evidence-based predictions, in real time. It was designed to equip Healthcare and Life Sciences professionals with the foresight to improve patient outcomes in the real-world environment. In 2017, OKRA Technologies closed a $4.2 million Series A round.In 2016, after several years in academia at the University of Technology in Delft and Imperial College in London, she was eager to implement her research on a commercial scale - this brought her to the Cambridge startup community. Bouarfa holds a number of advisory positions and is a member of the European Commission's High Level Expert Group for Artificial Intelligence.
In 2017, Bouarfa was recognised by MIT Technology as an Innovator under 35. In January 2018, she was among the finalists for the award of entrepreneur of the Year by Women in IT, and was selected as one of Forbes Top 50 Women in Technology.