Organization Urges Young African Scientists to Become ‘the Next Einstein’

2018-04-16

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[00:00.00]
  • Researchers from all over Africa presented their work at the recent Next Einstein Forum conference in Rwanda.
  • [00:11.03]
  • Conference organizers set up the event to provide support for the development of young scientists across Africa.
  • [00:21.93]
  • Organizers called it the largest-ever gathering of scientists on the continent.
  • [00:28.93]
  • South African genetics expert Vinet Coetzee spoke at the meeting.
  • [00:36.28]
  • She talked about a device to help doctors identify persons with malaria.
  • [00:43.34]
  • This could be extremely useful in rural areas since the device does not need blood or even laboratory tests.
  • [00:54.84]
  • Coetzee said the device can provide test results quickly, is not costly and does not require a medical treatment.
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  • “It can reduce health inequality and bring us one step closer to a world free of malaria,” she added.
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  • Peter Ngene, a chemistry professor from Nigeria, spoke about nanotechnology: the science of making unimaginably small things.
  • [01:29.55]
  • Ngene described how he plans to use extremely small devices to store energy from the sun.
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  • He said, “We can go from a dark continent to a bright continent.”
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  • Rwandan President Paul Kagame is the current head of the African Union.
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  • He opened the conference by linking scientific progress to Africa’s development at large.
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  • Kagame said, “Today, more than ever before…math and science proficiency is a prerequisite for…high-income status and the gains in health and well-being that go along with it.”
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  • “For too long, Africa has allowed itself to be left behind,” the president added.
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  • He noted that as the continent aims to compete on the same level as other area of the world, it cannot leave out women and girls.
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  • Kagame urged Africans not to accept the international custom of men outnumbering women in scientific positions and research.
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  • Eliane Ubalijoro is a professor at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.
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  • She noted the large number of women at the conference.
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  • Africa falls behind the rest of the world in scientific production.
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  • But research on the continent is growing quickly.
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  • And a United Nations report showed that some African nations have increased their research and development spending “to the level of a middle-income economy.”
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  • Three examples are Ethiopia, Kenya and Mali.
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  • The Next Einstein Forum was launched in 2013.
  • [03:37.57]
  • The forum now supports 19 African science fellows, along with an Africa Science Week at schools in 30 countries.
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  • At the meeting last month, the group launched Scientific African, a magazine to publicize new research.
  • [03:58.08]
  • It is to be published four times a year.
  • [04:02.56]
  • The forum is a product of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences.
  • [04:09.02]
  • The institute provides financial aid for students to earn masters’ degrees in mathematics at centers in Cameroon, Ghana, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania.
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  • More than 1,500 students from 43 African countries have completed their studies through the program since 2003.
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  • And 32 percent of them are women.
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  • The program supporting Africans who study mathematics was the idea of South African-born physicist Neil Turok.
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  • He grew up as his parents fought apartheid, the country’s former system of racial separation.
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  • Turok told the conference, “My parents took pride in combatting injustice and they were thrown in jail.
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  • It was difficult for me personally, but it was good for my studies because I threw myself into my work.”
  • [05:19.11]
  • Turok gained success in physics and mathematics.
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  • He worked with Stephen Hawking, taught at Princeton University in the United States and become the director of the Perimeter Institute in Canada.
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  • The institute is an independent research center for experimental physics.
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  • His father then urged him to do something for Africa.
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  • So he set up the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences in 2003.
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  • Ten years later, the Next Einstein Forum was launched.
  • [06:00.26]
  • Turok said he believes the world’s next Albert Einstein can come from Africa.
  • [06:07.41]
  • “When Africans enter science in large numbers, with their diversity…and motivation, they will make massive…discoveries,” he suggested.
  • [06:19.23]
  • “Those discoveries are just waiting there to be made.”
  • [06:23.55]
  • I’m ­Pete Musto.
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