OTTAWA, Nov. 7, 2013 /CNW/ - After 10 years of searching for an African
Einstein, the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, or AIMS,
hasn't found him or her yet. However, with Canada's help, it has
produced an impressive array of more than 500 graduates from 40 African
nations with more than 30 per cent of the graduates being women.
In the presence of His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston,
Governor General of Canada, AIMS chairman and founder Prof. Neil Turok and executive director
Thierry Zomahoun celebrated some of these alumni at an event Nov. 6 at
the Fairmont Chateau Laurier hosted by the International Development
Research Centre (IDRC).
AIMS and IDRC are also holding a panel discussion at the IDRC on Nov. 7.
"We are proud of what we've accomplished," says Neil Turok, AIMS founder
and director of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in
Waterloo, Ontario. "We have produced 233 Masters and 55 PhDs including
the first maths PhD from the Central African Republic and more than 400
published papers in academic and research journals."
The effort is timely as economies in Africa have been experiencing
phenomenal growth in the first decade of this century. The Economist reported in 2011 that six (Angola, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Chad, Mozambique
and Rwanda) of nine of the world's fastest growing economies were in
Africa. These countries had seen economic growth rates between 7.6 to
11.1 per cent and these high growth rates are predicted to continue
until 2015. The demand is exploding for a generation of youth that
apply science and math to ensure rapid and stable social and political
Only six per cent of post-secondary aged Africans are enrolled in
apprenticeships, colleges or universities, compared to the global
average of 26 per cent (UNESCO Institute of Statistics, Montreal,
2010). In Europe and North America the enrollment ratio is as high as
80 per cent. In Canada, the enrollment ratio is about 75 per cent of
post-secondary aged Canadians (World Bank 2011). The AIMS-Next Einstein
Initiative (AIMS-NEI) is playing a major part in closing this gap in
Africa, by opening centres of excellence for training, research and
outreach in South Africa, Senegal, Ghana, Cameroon and Tanzania. The
plan is to create a network of 15 centres across Africa graduating
thousands of mathematical sciences experts - half will be women -
annually by the year 2021.
Turok, a South African-born physicist known for his work in cosmology,
developing and testing theories of the big bang, founded AIMS in 2003.
He believes that building capacity in mathematical science is one of
the smartest ways to contribute to Africa's development, by investing
directly in talented young people, in an efficient, transparent and
highly cost-effective way.
"Our concept is simple. We bring together top global minds in math and
science to teach and research with Africa's brightest students," says
Thierry Zomahoun, executive director of AIMS-NEI, McGill University
graduate and former executive with a Canadian-based international
development organization. "Our graduates then use these skills to
tackle the problems ranging from, disease and famine, to environmental
degradation, illiteracy and poverty. AIMS graduates have a broad-based
training and are talented problem solvers and innovators."
AIMS's success has made governments and key technology businesses take
notice. The Canadian Government made a major investment of CDN$20
million in 2010. The United Kingdom and Germany have also invested in
the project. Twenty-six universities from Canada, Europe, Asia and
Africa are participating, including the Universities of Ottawa, Guelph,
Waterloo, British Columbia, Simon Fraser and Victoria. Technology and
publishing companies like BlackBerry, Google USA and Cambridge
University Press have also made significant contributions.
"We are grateful for the support we are receiving from governments in
Africa and abroad," Turok says. "Canada's contribution was seminal and
we are now seeing the impact with our graduates taking on leadership
roles building Africa's self-sufficiency in education, research and
Why focus on mathematical sciences? Because mathematics underlies every
modern technology from plumbing to electricity, smartphones to
satellites. Its applications range from modelling and planning for
economics, communications, transport, energy and health. Yet, it is
also completely cross-cultural and free to share. Mathematical science
is the foundation for development. Many AIMS graduates have gone on to
leading positions in civil institutions and NGOs, as well as in
universities, research centres and companies across Africa.
The below alumni, along with Neil and Thierry, will participate in a
panel discussion on the program to be moderated by journalist Paul
Wells from Maclean's magazine from 3 to 5 p.m, 150 Kent Street (Corner
of Albert), 8th floor.
Martial Loth Ndeffo Mbah, PhD, Associate Research Scientist, Yale School of Public Health
Marvellous Onuma-Kalu, Master's degree candidate in Physics, University of Waterloo
Nosiphiwo Zwane, PhD candidate in Physics, Perimeter Institute, University of Waterloo
Richard Junganiko Munthali, AIMS alumnus and intern at Communitech in Waterloo
Felix Oghenekohwo, PhD candidate in Applied Geophysics, University of British Columbia
Unable to attend, watch here (Nov. 7, 3 to 5 p.m): http://idrc.canwebcast.net/live
About AIMS and the Next Einstein Initiative
The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) is a pan-African
network of centers of excellence for post graduate education, research
and outreach in mathematical sciences. Its mission is to enable
Africa's brightest students to flourish as independent thinkers,
problem solvers and innovators capable of propelling Africa's future
scientific, educational and economic self-sufficiency. AIMS was
founded in 2003 and has produced more than 500 graduates, about one
third of whom are women. The goal of the Next Einstein Initiative is to
build 15 centres of excellence across Africa by 2021.Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
To learn more more: www.nexteinstein.org
SOURCE: African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS)
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