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Africa’s female scientists are breaking barriers, leading change

March 08, 2018

KIGALI, Rwanda, March 8th 2018 -/African Media Agency (AMA) – It’s not every day that you hear about cutting-edge global discoveries led by African scientists, especially female scientists. And yet, the Next Einstein Forum (NEF) female Fellows are breaking barriers in non-invasive measures of health, nanotechnology for cancer and Alzheimer’s treatment, treating and preventing malnutrition, type 2 Diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, next generation health systems and technology policies, plant defense in forest species, upcycling waste, and explaining Einstein’s fudge factor, to name only a few areas.

“What is clear is that in most cases the world does not know or value the contributions to female scientists to science or society. In the case of female African scientists, the Next Einstein Forum is working to put female scientists front and centre of the discussion on global research and innovation. Their work is valuable to science, and it is valuable for global development. As we collectively #PressforProgress, we must highlight their contributions,” said Mr. Thierry Zomahoun, NEF Founder and Chair and the President and CEO of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS).

According to UNESCO, the number of women around the world pursuing a career in science and technology is estimated at 28% and only 30% of STEM professionals in Sub-Saharan Africa are women. And yet, robust and sturdy capacities in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are pivotal to contributing to a country or continent’s transformation. A report from the World Bank in 2014 noted that Sub-Saharan Africa’s notable economic growth in recent years is reflected in its growing capacity for research in the STEM fields.

“Those who will benefit from the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be those that leverage research and development. Africa urgently needs to invest in the training and retention of African women in STEM from a secondary to a post-doctoral level. Science needs women. This isn’t a platitude, it is an economic and societal imperative. Just look at the work that the female members of the NEF Community of Scientists are doing; they demonstrate the highest levels of scientific excellence and concrete impact to our global community,” said Nathalie Munyampenda, NEF Managing Director.

Maha Nasr et Vinet Coetzee, lauréates du NEF

Maha Nasr from Egypt and Vinet Coetzee, South African NEF Fellow

For instance, South African NEF Fellow Dr. Vinet Coetzee leads a team which developed an affordable 3D camera, at one tenth of the price of comparable commercial systems, to identify the specific facial features associated with Down syndrome in African infants. She plans to expand this research to other conditions. The long-term aim of the project is to develop a facial screening tool that can help doctors identify a range of conditions more accurately at a largely reduced cost.

Professor Maha Nasr from Egypt is exploring the possibility of creation of novel carriers for treatment of diseases, mainly for cancer and Alzheimer’s. Dr. Sanushka Naidoo from South Africa Sanushka is focusing on mechanisms that can confer broad-spectrum, long lasting resistance (from forest species) by dissecting gene families and responses to pests and pathogens. 

Dr. Aku Kwamie from Ghana devotes her energies on health systems governance which is a central pillar in ensuring equitable health care for all which is especially significant in countries with vast stretches of land and uneven development.

DNA patterns to trace human disorders is the focus of Dr. Rym Kefi from Tunisia. She is working to better understand the pathogenesis of Type 2 diabetes, to improve its diagnosis and treatment thereby reducing its prevalence not only in Tunisia

The role of ICT, the identification of technologies appropriate to rural contexts is the focus of research by Professor Aminata Garba from Niger. Her hope is to explore the frontiers between policies and technologies.

Leaders in their fields, these NEF Fellows are working to discover sustainable and viable solutions to problems that face humanity. They will be presenting their work at the NEF Global Gathering 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda on 26-28 March 2018.

The NEF has prepared a special session on ‘Bridging the Gap for Women in Science and Technology’ as part of the NEF Global Gathering 2018. “It’s time for female scientists to step out of the shadows. They can’t do this without concrete support. Momentum and buzzwords are not enough. There are best practices to draw from. Now is the time to implement. That’s what we’ll be discussing during our special session for women in science and technology,” said Mr. Zomahoun.

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of the Next Einstein Forum.

About the Next Einstein Forum
Launched in 2013, the Next Einstein Forum (NEF) is an initiative of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in partnership with the Robert Bosch Stiftung. The NEF is a platform that connects science, society and policy in Africa and the rest of the world – with the goal to leverage science for human development globally. The NEF believes that Africa’s contributions to the global scientific community are critical for global progress. At the centre of NEF efforts are Africa’s young people, the driving force for Africa’s scientific renaissance. The NEF is a unique youth-driven forum. At our headline biennial scientific events, 50% of participants are 42 or younger. Far from being an ordinary science forum, the NEF Global Gatherings position science at the centre of global development efforts. The next NEF Global Gathering will be held on 26-28 March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda. In addition, through our Communities of Scientists, we showcase the contributions of Africa’s brilliant youth to Africa’s scientific emergence through its class of NEF Fellows, who are Africa’s top scientists and technologists under the age of 42, and NEF Ambassadors, who are the NEF’s 54 science and technology ambassadors on the ground.

The NEF is also working together with partners such as the African Academy of Sciences, Ministers’ of Education, Science and Research across Africa, foundations and other global scientific and private sector companies, to build an African scientific identity. By bringing together key stakeholders, the NEF hopes to drive the discussion from policy to implementation by leveraging buy in and best practice results from Africa and the world. Have a look at our benchmark Dakar Declaration.

Finally, the NEF is telling untold stories of scientific research and innovation across the continent through our various platforms. We want to recalibrate what ‘innovation’ means in Africa. We want to make the link between science and technology, even basic sciences, to everyday life. We want the public involved in science and we have recently concluded the first coordinated Africa Science Week – an annual three to five day celebration of science and technology through coordinated science events across the continent. We believe the next Einstein will be African.

The NEF has been endorsed by the African Union Commission, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Governments of Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa, the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) and a growing number of private sector and civil society partners from across the world who are passionate about positioning Africa’s scientific community as an influential member in the global scientific community, which will ensure sustainable human development in Africa and other parts of the world.

More at Twitter: @NextEinsteinFor Facebook: NextEinsteinForum

Media contacts

Eloïne Barry

African Media Agency

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