Support from African leaders is adding momentum to the AIMS-Next Einstein Initiative (NEI), an ambitious plan to create a coordinated network of 15 African Institutes for Mathematical Science (AIMS) by 2020.
The first AIMS centre, in Cape Town, South Africa, was founded by Perimeter Institute’s Director Neil Turok, and 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.
In May 2010, Sénégal's President Abdoulaye Wade announced on national television that his government will contribute €1 million toward AIMS-Sénégal, and declared its establishment a top national priority. He also supported the designation of AIMS-Sénégal as a “Fondation d'utilité publique,” i.e., a state-sanctioned charitable institution.
President Wade also used the occasion to award Prof. Turok with “la médaille de l’Ordre National du Lion”, Sénégal’s highest state honour. Similar honours were conferred upon Professor Vincent Rivasseau (Université Paris-Sud XI), co-founder of AIMS-Sénégal, and Professor Maxim Kontsevich (l’Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques), an eminent mathematician who is a patron of AIMS-Sénégal. Plans for the new centre are being finalized, and construction should commence shortly, with the first students expected in September 2011.
"His Excellency President Abdoulaye Wade has been an inspirational figure promoting science, enlightenment and pan-Africanism for many years," said Prof. Turok. "To receive his government's full commitment of support for AIMS-Sénégal, and then this extraordinary medal from him, alongside my colleagues Professors Maxim Kontsevich and Vincent Rivasseau, was an unforgettable experience. In return, I can promise our absolute commitment to helping AIMS-Sénégal emerge as a centre of excellence which President Wade, Sénégal and Africa can truly be proud of."
It is hoped that the growing pan-African network of AIMS centres envisioned by the Next Einstein Initiative will provide the right environment for exceptional talents to emerge and flourish, ultimately feeding a stream of thousands of skilled alumni into government, industry, research and academia. AIMS graduates will form a highly skilled community, working towards the economic, political and educational self-sufficiency of Africa.
The Role of PI Global Outreach
Perimeter Institute (PI) has adopted AIMS-NEI as a centerpiece of its Global Outreach effort, which offers expertise to assist emerging centres of excellence in physics and maths worldwide. During a visit to PI in July 2010, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced a CDN$20 million contribution from the Canadian Government for AIMS-NEI.
PI Global Outreach is now coordinating support from the North American academic community for the ‘One For Many Scholarship Program’ which partners international universities with AIMS centres by supporting African students and promoting a two-way flow of students and lecturers. In addition, leading Canadian mathematical institutes have expressed interest in working with AIMS-NEI.
Through these efforts, PI aims to serve as a stimulus for scientific excellence and, in the process, further enhance Ontario and Canada’s leadership in the promotion of science and innovation worldwide.