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Turok [Photo Credit DigitalClassroom/Vodacom]

Neil Turok [Photo Credit DigitalClassRoom/Vodacom]

““The next Einstein will come from Africa.” Of that, Neil Turok is convinced. A South African cosmologist and chair of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, Turok’s Next Einstein Initiative is working to nurture Africa’s future intellectual giants, geniuses with the potential to shape global technologies – from quantum computing to modelling epidemics.

Set up in 2008, NEI has a network of 15 centres of excellence across Africa focused on teaching mathematical sciences to African university graduates, so as to unlock the continent’s scientific and technical talent. Its graduates come from a diverse range of countries, some prosperous, some wracked by conflict: Egypt, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Botswana, Mozambique, Algeria …

…His idea for the Einstein initiative germinated over 30 years ago when, in exile from apartheid South Africa, he worked as a volunteer teacher in rural Lesotho in the late 1970s.” [1]

“The founder and chairman of the institute is Neil Turok, a renowned physicist and long-time collaborator with Mr. Hawking…

…Mr. Turok believes the AIMS institute can contribute to an “African renaissance” by helping to overcome decades of underfunding and isolation at the continent’s universities. “Just think what will happen if Africa does for science what it has done for music, for literature and for art,” he wrote in The Globe and Mail last year. “Not only Africa, but the world could be transformed.”” [2]

““I’m looking to young African geniuses to do what Jews did for modern science,” he says. “When a set of new cultures enter science, they bring new energy, new perspectives, unconventional thinking. Genius.”

NEI graduates have gone on to work on the Large Hadron Collider experiment in Switzerland and the National Institute of Health in the US. But 70%, Turok says says, continue to teach or research in Africa. Among the South African graduates is Daphne Singo,  the daughter of a Limpopo domestic worker, who has just received her PhD in nuclear physics.” [1]

“Dr. Turok founded the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), which opened in 2003. Based in Cape Town, this postgraduate educational centre supports the development of mathematics and science across the African continent” [3]

“The AIMS-Next Einstein Initiative was set up in 2008 to build a critical mass of scientific and technical talent in Africa, capable of initiating growth across the continent. Some of the best graduates from African Universities are trained in AIMS centres based on the model of academic excellence developed at AIMS-South Africa since 2003. Other centres include AIMS-Senegal opening in September 2011, and an affiliate programme hosted at AUST in Abuja, Nigeria.” [4]

“AIMS-Cameroon to open in October 2013…A Memorandum of Understanding and a Headquarters Agreement were signed with the Cameroonian Government on July 12th, 2013. These agreements solidify the legal status of the AIMS Centre according to the laws of Cameroon, and the commitment by the Cameroonian government to contribute some USD $5.3 million over the next 5 years.  If AIMS-Cameroon is successful – as its predecessors have certainly been –the Minister of Higher Education indicated that they would be willing to continue their annual financial contribution indefinitely.

This is a huge milestone, the very first in its nature, and one that sets a new course for AIMS centre development across the continent. Additionally, the signing of these two important agreements will redefine the way governments’ commitment to education in the mathematical sciences can be secured.” [5]

2011: “The Government of Ghana has commited US$1.5 million to help launch the third independent centre of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, the centrepiece of PI’s global outreach effort…The first AIMS centre, in Cape Town, South Africa…has become a globally recognized pan-African centre of excellence for postgraduate education and research. Its mission is to rapidly expand Africa’s scientific and technological capacity by providing advanced training to exceptional African graduates.

Professor Francis Allotey, a distinguished Ghanaian scientist and founder of AIMS-Ghana says, “This is a strategic investment in young people. Ghana and Africa will reap the benefits of this initiative for a very long time.” Sir Michael Berry, FRS, a long-time supporter of AIMS-NEI, emphasizes, “It is the time of Africa, time to release the vast potential for innovation and discovery from the peoples of this continent. AIMS is both an early indicator and a driver of this African scientific renaissance.”” [6]

“In total, the institute hopes to have 15 campuses across Africa by 2020” [2]

“There is a ton of talent; of genius, in Africa, and it’s only highly skilled Africans who can move Africa towards development; even a fantastic future.” [1]

Notes:

1. ‘Finding Africa’s Einstein’, Digital Classroom (vodacom), 21 June 2013, [Accessed 18 August 2013] (http://digitalclassroom.co.za/digitalclassroom/latestnews/375-finding-africa-s-einstein)

2. Geoffrey York, “Finding the next Einstein in Africa”, The Global and Mail, 6 September 2012, [Accessed 16 August 2013] (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/finding-the-next-einstein-in-africa/article4183863/?service=mobile)

3. Profile on Perimeter Institute, [Accessed 16 August 2013] (http://www.perimeterinstitute.ca/people/neil-turok)

4.  Aims Website, 20 May 2011, [Accessed 16 August 2013] (http://www.nexteinstein.org/ghana-invests)

5. “AIMS-Cameroon to open in October 2013”, Aims Website, 12 July 2013, Aims Website, [Accessed 16 August 2013] (http://www.nexteinstein.org/aims-cameroon-to-open-in-october-2013)

6. “Government of Ghana Invests in AIMS”, Perimeter Institute News, 20 May 2011, [Accessed 16 August 2013] (http://www.perimeterinstitute.ca/news/government-ghana-invests-aims)

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