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African scientists get backing from the AU

African scientists will be glad to learn that they have the full backing of the continent’s top leadership.

President Paul Kagame, the Africa Union chair, reiterated his support for science-related initiatives and committed to rallying his African counterparts to boost the sector.

He was speaking on a presidential panel at the ongoing Next Einstein Forum 2018, a global gathering that drew over 1500 scientists, businesspersons and policymakers.

The forum is organised by The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in collaboration with Robert Bosch Stiftung, a German Foundation.

Kagame said that the African Union, through its Commission for Science and Technology, intends to bring together African countries to advance developments in science and technology.

The advancements in science, the President said, can be used to facilitate Africa’s development agenda.

“Already at the AU Commission, there is a commission responsible for science and technology and we intend to strengthen that, support that and make sure it serves the continent by bringing together African countries around something they can do together to advance development on what science and technology can provide,” Kagame said.

He noted that strengthening science-related disciplines would save the continent from lagging behind during the forthcoming fourth industrial revolution as has been the case previously.

“Education, science, mathematics, technology are very central in our daily lives if we want to make advancements that we have set for ourselves in the next 50 years. There have been revolutions across the globe and Africa has always lagged behind or left out,” the President said.

“This moment we should not miss out. There is no doubt that Africa intends to do the best we can. I will do my best, work with other leaders, to make sure that we seize the moment,” he said.

The idea is to encourage countries to invest state resources and put in place policies that boost science that aims at benefiting citizens.

Among the efforts that the Rwandan government has rolled out in recent years to strengthen scientific advancements include ensuring a conducive business environment as well as building partnerships with international higher learning institutions, among other stakeholders.

Government efforts have seen Rwanda host multiple science centres as well as regional headquarters of institutions such as African Institute of Mathematical Sciences, and Carnegie Mellon University.

“We have encouraged ecosystem partnerships with academic institutions and the private sector to make sure young people’s ideas are encouraged and facilitated,” Kagame said.

“We invest in education and do what we can ourselves and with partners to encourage and incentivize science and avail opportunities for young people,” the President added.

Asked what application he would develop if he were a 20-year-old techie, President Kagame said that he is more focused on fostering the next generation of top-notch developers.

“I find myself here, which makes me think that I shouldn’t be the next Zuckerberg, but rather I should be the one to enable others to become Zuckerbergs,” Kagame responded.

Speaking at the session, Senegal President Macky Sall said that the African continent ought to support scientific advancements by developing skills of the youth.

“Africa cannot be absent from the innovation and science scene, it is able to surpass the old powers in this field,” Sall said.

Thierry Zomahoun, the AIMS President and CEO & Next Einstein Forum founder, emphasised that a lot can be achieved in regards to advancements in science if leaders are committed to supporting the sector.

The 2019 Next Einstein Forum will be hosted by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya.

SOURCE: The New Times Publications

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