Italian physics centre to open branch in Rwanda

The Italy-based International Centre for Theoretical Physics, or ICTP, will open a branch campus in Rwanda by January 2015, to operate as an East African regional base and to offer education, training and research at postgraduate level in physics and mathematics.

The ICTP branch campus was announced during the visit of Rwandan President Paul Kagame as the keynote speaker at an event themed “ICTP: 50 Years of Science for the Future – Anniversary celebration” held in Trieste, Italy, from 6-9 October.

The ICTP, founded by Pakistani Nobel Laureate Abdus Salam in 1964, is an international research institute for physical and mathematical sciences based in Trieste that aims to promote scientific excellence in the developing world.

“The ICTP’s commitment to establish its East African regional centre in Rwanda is of great practical and symbolic importance to us as a nation. We look forward to working together with the rest of the region and ICTP to make this venture a success,” said Kagame in his keynote lecture.

The ICTP regional centre will be hosted at the University of Rwanda’s college of science and technology and will have a budget of RWF500 million (US$0.72 million), according to a Pan African Visions report.

It will make new PhD and masters degree and fellowship programmes accessible for Rwandan and other African students to study and conduct research in theoretical high energy physics, condensed matter, statistical physics and material science, pure and applied mathematics as well as earth system physics which includes climate change and geophysics.

The regional centre will be the second foreign campus in Rwanda – the first was the United States-based Carnegie Mellon University, which has a campus in Kigali.

Six institutions in Africa have ICTP-affiliated centres. Four are quite active – those in Senegal, Ghana, Cameroon and Benin – while two others in Ethiopia and Sudan carry out modest programmes, according to the ICTP.

Expert's view

Magdi Tawfik Abdelhamid, a science and technology expert, welcomed the news.

“This regional centre will help in tackling Africa’s poor quality mathematics and physics education by producing postgraduates with the needed scientific skills to work in important fields for Africa's development including geology and mineralogy,” Abdelhamid told University World News.

The low standard of science and mathematics education in Africa was highlighted in last month’s Global Competitiveness Report. For instance, South Africa was ranked last out of 144 countries worldwide for the quality of maths and science education.