Mathematics and Science to be elevated across the continent with substantial support from African Development Bank
It does not happen often that an African academic institution uses MIT as a benchmark but that is the goal the African Institute of Mathematics and Sciences (AIMS) has set itself.
The institute’s founder, Dr Neil Turok, said “Our goal is to be the MIT for Africa. We know the impact MIT has on U.S. industry. We want to create the same for Africa, but we struggle with sustainable funding. We want to work with the African Development Bank to develop sustainable funding.”
That undertaking has become a reality this week when the African Development Bank, based in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, signed a 10-year partnership proposal to build mathematics and science capacity in Africa, strengthen industry linkages and help to establish a continent-wide industrial and innovation sphere.
Turok said AIMS’ research and industry-led capacity development aligns with the bank’s High 5s, including its regional integration targets. “What we are doing at AIMS is to transform Africa by giving opportunities to the youth. AIMS is African-owned, African-run, African-operated, but it hosts the best scientists in the world to give African young scientists the stuff they need.”
The partnership programme will provide funding of more than US$54 million to ensure that each of the 54 African countries can produce an additional 100 to 250 post-graduate students by 2020 to lead research and innovation in various fields.
African Development Bank President, Akinwumi Adesina stressed the need for Africa to develop with pride and pledged the bank’s commitment to build a partnership with AIMS that would allow the continent to compete with the rest of the world. “We must recognize that the world is moving fast. Consequently, how can Africa position itself in a rapidly changing world so that it doesn’t become disadvantaged? We are a knowledge-driven bank and think our partnership will help us build quantum knowledge for growth. We are excited about the focus on young people. We also like the regional integration dimension of the work that AIMS does.”
AIMS is seeking bridging finance of US$5 million to build mathematical capacity and called for the bank’s support to establish the African Presidential Resource Center. AIMS’ President, Thierry Zomahoun, explained, “Bridging finance is needed to build upon and sustain the momentum in AIMS’ ongoing expansion of mathematical sciences education, training, research and industry initiative on the continent.”
“With the generous support of donors since 2003, AIMS has been able to mobilize and commit more than US$60 million in support of fully-funded scholarships for the brightest young African scholars to obtain master’s and PhD education and training in the mathematical sciences and to implement an industry initiative,” said Zomahoun.
Adesina promised to convene a meeting of donors to discuss AIMS’ funding request, but stressed the need for greater participation by the private sector, particularly key industries that benefit from the institution’s research and work in science, technology and innovation.
Photograph of Dr Neil Turok by the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics