State leaders, policy makers, global companies and some of the brightest minds on the continent gathered in Senegal recently to spotlight the fellows at the Next Einstein Forum, meant to establish funding, foster collaboration and find solutions for development in the four fields of science, technology, engineering and math known together as STEM. The forum also stressed that women’s roles and opportunities in the fields need to be strengthened for Africa to realize its full potential.
The March 8-10 forum, initiated by the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences and to be held next in Rwanda in 2018, chose the African fellows so they could present their research, meet each other and draw from a vast network of nearly 1,000 people to advance their work and reduce isolation within their field. Here, they rubbed shoulders with Senegal President Macky Sall, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, and research and science ministers from various countries as well as funders. IBM, for example, has announced it will pick five of the fellows who will then visit global research labs and be paired with a researcher in a similar field for a week.
The institute’s six centers, and the forum, are part of continent-wide efforts to combat Africa’s brain drain by encouraging scientists to contribute to improving the continent, or to return to help build the fields. Each center has the support of the government, academia and funders.
“Everything we are doing is to provide, and to create the right environment for the next Einstein to emerge from Africa,” said Thierry Zomahoun, chairman for the Forum and President and CEO of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences. The parallel goal is to bring more women into these fields, he said.