Senegal dreams of 'African Einstein' with new science hub

September 10, 2011 by Malick Rokhy BA

A mathematics institute which opened in Senegal this week is the first step to creating a west African science centre, which backers hope could produce the continent's own Albert Einstein.

The institute is the second of its kind on the continent. It is modelled after the African Institute of Mathematics (AIMS) opened in Cape Town in 2003. This new institute sprang out of a larger research and education centre (Cirem).

Built on a site overlooking the sea in Mbour 80 kilometres (50 miles) southeast of Dakar) the centre is aimed at reviving basic and applied research in Africa, said Mamadou Sanghar, the director of AIMS-Senegal, at the launch on Tuesday.

The centres aim to train Africans to tackle many of the problems faced by the continent, such as climate change, and infectious diseases, and use science and technology towards its own development.

Senegal's Higher Education Minister Amadou Tidiane Ba bemoaned the "weakness of high-level scientific and technological innovation" coming out of Africa.

The continent "produces only 1 percent of scientific articles and patents identified on the planet ... the challenge is to contribute to the gradual reversal of this trend," said Ba, who is also a researcher in .

Tuesday's opening ceremony in Mbour was attended by 1985 Nobel physics prizewinner Klaus von Klitzing and Cedric Villiani, who won the prestigious Field Medal for mathematics in 2010.

"AIMS was created by scientists who want a Pan-African centre of excellence so that Africa can be a scientific leader," said South African physicist Neil Turok at the centre's inauguration. The project is very much his brainchild.

The institute was created by France's Institute for Development Research (IRD), the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar and Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC), with the support of the Senegalese government, and western research bodies.

It is intended to serve West and Central Africa.

The centre opens with 35 students from 14 African countries for masters-level education.

"The students are chosen among the best on the continent. They benefit from full support. Courses will be taught by professors from around the world," said Sanghare.

Over 360 students from 31 countries have already graduated from AIMS Cape Town.

These include Viateur Tuyisenge who lost his whole family in the Rwandan genocide. He has already studied computer science in France, the IDRC said.

Esra Khaleel from war-torn Darfur is doing a PhD in nuclear physics and wants to help solve South Africa's energy crisis, the Canadian centre said in a statement.

"We must use the momentum to go further. We all dream of an African Einstein," said Vincent Rivasseau of AIMS-Senegal, referring to the German scientific genius regarded as the father of modern physics.

The IRDC says some one million students graduate from African universities every year, but high-level training in scientific and technical fields is generally not available.

"Mathematical sciences are after all the backbone of the modern economy," said the centre.

The reduction of the scientific divide plaguing Africa "will not be overnight, (but) I think she will do great things in science in the coming decades," said Fields Medal winner Cedric Villani.

Klaus von Klitzing revealed that he had convinced Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade to support the project during a trip to the country two years ago.

"Other (developed) countried have invested heavily in education and knowledge. It is an absolute necessity," the physicist said.

AIMS plans to open 15 centres across the continent by 2020.

Explore further: Food insecurity linked with HIV/AIDS in Africa

Related Stories

Food insecurity linked with HIV/AIDS in Africa

March 19, 2008

Determining how the HIV/AIDS epidemic increases food insecurity in African cities – and what can be done to reduce the chances of this happening –is the focus of a new, international Queen’s-led project.

Study: African fruit is untapped resource

January 31, 2008

A report suggests native African fruits are an untapped resource that could help combat malnutrition and boost rural development on the African continent.

South Africa unveils space agency

December 9, 2010

South Africa unveiled its national space agency on Thursday, aiming to become a leader in earth observation technology across the continent in 10 years, the minister of science and technology said.

Africa's tree belt takes root in Senegal

June 20, 2011

An ambitious plan to build a vast forest belt straight across Africa to contain desertification has taken root in Senegal, greening huge tracts of land with drought-tolerant tree species.

Africa's 'Giant Eye' opened

November 11, 2005

The southern hemisphere's largest telescope was officially unveiled yesterday by the South African President Thabo Mbeki in Sutherland, a small town 400km north of Cape Town, South Africa. The Southern African Large Telescope ...

Recommended for you

Industrial "edge cities" have helped China grow

August 18, 2017

China's massive investment in industrial parks has paid economic dividends while reshaping the urban areas where they are located, according to a newly published study co-authored by an MIT expert on urban economics.

Ancient species of giant sloth discovered in Mexico

August 17, 2017

Mexican scientists said Wednesday they have discovered the fossilized remains of a previously unknown species of giant sloth that lived 10,000 years ago and died at the bottom of a sinkhole.

The mathematics of golf

August 16, 2017

(—The official Rules of Golf, which are continually being revised and updated as new equipment emerges, have close ties to mathematics. In many cases, math is used to place limitations on golf equipment, such as ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Sep 10, 2011
Was Einstein a mathematician?
1 / 5 (1) Sep 10, 2011
They need a better patent office just like we do.
1 / 5 (1) Sep 11, 2011
Well said. Clerks too.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.