SENEGAL: Second postgraduate maths institute to open

The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences based in South Africa is on course to create a coordinated pan-African network training postgraduate students and promoting research in mathematical sciences within five years. A second AIMS centre is to start operating in Senegal in September.

Barry Green, AIMS South Africa director, said AIMS Senegal would open its doors to about 30 students in September for the 2011-12 academic year. It would most likely be followed by the establishment of another centre in Ghana and a fourth in Ethiopia.

Green told University World News after the international conference "Africa: The Choice of Science, the AIMS Initiative" held in Paris last month, that it was critical to understand the importance of the development of science for economic growth in Africa.

The meeting of African and international scientists, hosted by UNESCO, served as a platform to promote the development of AIMS Senegal, which will be modeled on AIMS South Africa.

AIMS Senegal has received support from the Senegalese government, which has committed around US$1.3 million to the centre and donated land near Mbour on the coast, about 80 kilometres south of the capital Dakar. Other funding has come from France, Google and Canada's International Development Research Centre.

AIMS was created in 2003 as a partnership between six universities in three countries: Cambridge and Oxford in Britain, France's Université Paris-Sud 11, and the universities of the Western Cape, Stellenbosch and Cape Town in South Africa.

Professor Vincent Rivasseau of Université Paris-Sud, chair of the four-year-old Association for the Advancement of Science in Africa, is the president of AIMS-Senegal. The director is Professer Mamadou Sangha of University Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar.

AIMS-Senegal will be a bilingual institute with courses both in French and English. It will offer a one-year graduate level course leading to a masters-level diploma in mathematical sciences.

AIMS South Africa teaches a nine-month postgraduate diploma in mathematical sciences, a biomathematics honours, and studies to the masters, doctoral and postdoctoral levels at its base in Cape Town. In June this year, it will have trained 54 post-graduate mathematics students from across Africa.

Last year the Canadian government awarded C$20 million (US$19.4 million) over the next four years to five centres of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences.

The funding is channeled through the Global Outreach Programme being implemented by the Canada-based Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, headed by Johannesburg-born AIMS founder Neil Turok.

In 2010 Turok won the World Innovation Summit for Education, or WISE, prize for his Next Einstein Initiative project, a core programme of AIMS that involves establishing a network of 15 centres of excellence in postgraduate mathematics training across Africa.

The Next Einstein Initiative is being spearheaded by Africa project director, Arun Sharma. Other centres could be created in Benin, Botswana, Egypt, Madagascar, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. AIMS has said it expects each centre to need to raise around US$400,000 a year to keep going.

The AIMS-Senegal project started in 2008 as an initiative of cofounders Vincent Rivasseau and Mamadou Sanghare. They were inspired by the framework provided by the AIMS Next Einstein Initiative and Turok's vision of a network of AIMS institutes covering all of Africa by 2020.

AIMS-Senegal rapidly received full support from Senegal's President Maitre Abdoulaye Wade, as well as from the government and universities in the country and overseas. Its opening in September, as the second free-standing institute of the AIMS network, is a key step on the road to a coordinated pan-African AIMS institution serving science in Africa.