Mathematics underpins science, technology and modern society – from cell phones to computers to satellites. Perimeter Institute has recognized this power, in launching a Global Outreach effort to promote the emergence of scientific talent in the developing world.
On September 6, 2011, the Government of Senegal and its national and international partners opened a new pan-African centre of excellence for Africa's brightest math and science graduates, in a beautiful seaside location in Mbour, 80 km south of Dakar.
AIMS-Senegal is the second centre of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), joining AIMS-South Africa, which has operated successfully in Cape Town since 2003. The plan to expand AIMS across Africa is known as the AIMS-Next Einstein Initiative (AIMS-NEI). The goal is to rapidly and cost-effectively expand Africa’s scientific and technological capacity by providing advanced training to exceptional African graduates and enabling them to work effectively for the future peaceful prosperity of the continent.
AIMS-NEI grew out of a wish first expressed by AIMS founder Neil Turok, also Director of Perimeter Institute, that "the next Einstein will be African." That wish has evolved into a strategic plan to create a pan-African network of 15 AIMS centres over the next decade. AIMS-NEI is supported through public and private funding, including a $20 million investment from the Government of Canada announced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in July 2010, and provided through the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). The Government of France is also a major partner in AIMS-Senegal, through its Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD).
The first AIMS centre, founded in Cape Town, South Africa in 2003, has graduated 360 students from 32 African countries to date, of whom one-third are women. AIMS has become globally recognized as a centre of excellence for postgraduate education and research.
At the grand opening celebrations, AIMS-Senegal’s first 36 students (selected from over 350 applicants to both centres), from 14 countries, were joined by the President of Senegal, His Excellency Abdoulaye Wade, and dignitaries from approximately 15 countries to recognize the centre’s many supporters and partnering academic institutions, which include the Universities of Cheikh Anta Diop, Gaston Berger, Thiès, and Ziguinchor Senegal, the University of Ottawa in Canada, Universités Pierre et Marie Curie and Paris Sud in France, Humboldt University of Berlin in Germany, and the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) Hefei.
"Were it not for AIMS, I think I would have stopped studying. Now, I have opportunities I never imagined I would have access to," says Alexia Nomenjanahary, a Madagascan alumna of AIMS-South Africa, whose work in mathematical biology earned her a scholarship to attend a summer school at the University of Oxford. Alexia will soon join AIMS-Senegal as a teaching assistant to share her talents and help realize the potential in others.
Rohinton Medhora, Vice-President of Programs at IDRC says, "Ultimately, Africa’s future lies in developing the minds of its brilliant young people. AIMS is the catalyst for that future and I am delighted to see it expand with the opening of AIMS-Senegal, a groundbreaking initiative that complements IDRC’s enduring support of outstanding scholars in developing countries and the fostering of development through innovation, science, and technology."
"The opening of our second centre, AIMS-Senegal, is a major milestone towards our dream of a truly pan-African network of scientific centres where the continent’s bright minds can shine," says Neil Turok. "As AIMS expands, thousands of talented Africans will acquire the skills they need to build Africa’s future economic, educational and technological self-sufficiency."
The AIMS-Next Einstein Initiative was launched in 2008 to build a critical mass of scientific and technical talent across Africa, capable of driving progress across the continent. AIMS-NEI grew out of the success of the AIMS-South Africa centre. Every year, between 50 and 55 talented students from all across Africa graduate from AIMS-South Africa, following a 10-month postgraduate diploma (PGD) course, with the vast majority continuing to Masters and PhD degrees. All AIMS students benefit from full scholarships. AIMS-South Africa was established in 2003 as a partnership among the Universities of Cambridge, Cape Town, Oxford, Paris Sud XI, Stellenbosch, and the Western Cape.
Growing Support for AIMS-NEI
To further its ambitious mandate and innovative teaching methods, AIMS-NEI has so far earned funding support from the Government of Senegal (US$1.4 million for the establishment of AIMS-Senegal plus the donation of a seaside parcel of land), the Government of Ghana (US$1.5 million for the creation of AIMS-Ghana), Google (US$2 million for the creation of AIMS-Senegal, AIMS-Ghana and a third centre), the Kavelman-Fonn Foundation (US$600,000 for AIMS-Senegal), the Government of France (land for AIMS-Senegal valued at US$1.3 million), and the Government of Canada (US$20.5 million, channelled through Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), anticipated to support the growth of a network of four AIMS centres in the years ahead). AIMS-NEI is also supported by a growing number of North American and European universities and companies through its One-for-Many scholarship program.