AFRICA-CANADA: Boost for Next-Einstein centres

The Canadian government has awarded C$20 million (US$19.4 million) over the next four years to five centres of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences. The centres are spread across the continent and run through the AIMS-Next Einstein Initiative. They will train talented young African postgraduate researchers in mathematical sciences.

The funding for AIMS was championed by the Ontario-based non-profit Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics' new global outreach programme headed by South African-born scientist Dr Neil Turok, who is also the founder of AIMS and initiator of the AIMS-Next Einstein Initiative.

AIMS is a postgraduate institute in Cape Town, South Africa, founded in 2003 as a partnership project involving six universities - Cambridge, Cape Town, Oxford, Paris Sud XI, Stellenbosch and Western Cape.

It recruits 60 African postgraduate students a year and provides intensive training via courses presented by local and international lecturers in the mathematical sciences and in problem-solving and computational skills. One goal is to build high-level skills for African initiatives in education, research, and technology.

The Next Einstein Initiative is expanding the AIMS approach into a network of science and technology centres across Africa. It currently has centres in Cape Town and in Abuja, Nigeria, and by 2015 will establish three more, possibly in Senegal, Ghana and Ethiopia.

By 2020, the initiative plans to have 15 centres graduating 750 scientists and technologists a year across Africa. Other centres could be Benin, Botswana, Egypt, Madagascar, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

AIMS Director Professor Barry Green welcomed the new funding which he said would support scholarships, education outreach and the Next Einstein Initiative secretariat with offices at AIMS in Cape Town.

"We are most excited that this will help to establish a pan-African network of similar centres in five African countries by 2015," Green said.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the new federal funding earlier this month at the Perimeter Institute, as a central element of a partnership between universities, the private sector and African governments.

Harper commended AIMS' revolutionary approach, saying history showed that the world becomes safer, healthier and more stable through advances made in science and technology.

Neil Turok praised Canada for supporting the growth of scientific centres of excellence in Africa. The country was pioneering the sharing of knowledge and expertise as a route to development.

"Just as ideas and innovation are the foundation of Canada's new economy, they will be the basis of Africa's future economic, educational, and scientific and governance self-sufficiency," Turok said.