KIGALI, Rwanda, December 8, 2020,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) kicked off the first-ever virtual edition of the Next Einstein Forum Global Gathering (NEF-GG), Africa’s largest scientific gathering today, 8 December 2020. Organized against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, under the theme “Building Africa’s resilience through education, research and innovation”, the 3-day event running from 8-10 December 2020, will take place through the Airmeet video conferencing platform.
“We are delighted to be hosting the Next Einstein Forum Global Gathering for the third time, following the second edition hosted in 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda and the first edition hosted in 2016 in Dakar, Senegal. We were getting ready to host the NEF-GG 2020 in Nairobi, Kenya in March; however, the event was postponed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which led us to readjust our plans”, said Lydie Hakizimana, AIMS Chief Executive Officer.”Nevertheless, conscious of the depth and breadth of the NEF-GG, Africa’s largest scientific gathering, we could not let this year come to an end without conveying this biennial assembly of leaders in science, technology, industry, civil society, policy and so many other domains which directly and indirectly affect our quotidian existence. There are many young people across the continent and beyond, who may not have been able to attend past editions, but they will be tuning in this time; that alone, makes all our efforts worth it. Our theme for this virtual edition is “Building Africa’s resilience through education, research and innovation”. Against the backdrop of everything the world is dealing with right now, I couldn’t think of a more fitting theme. Africa’s resilience and transformation are not in question and must continue to be our common priority. If you’re looking for a litmus test, look at how the continent has fared amid the COVID-19 pandemic; look at how many countries are rethinking and redesigning their academic institutions and the work place in general. If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that the ones who thrive are those who are ready for change. And the force of change comes in various forms: creating, modelling, testing, experimenting, trying, until we find something that works; by Africa, and for Africa”, she said in her opening remarks.
In his keynote address, the Minister of Health, Rwanda, Hon Dr Daniel Ngamije set the tone for the event, underscoring the collaboration between the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences and the Government of Rwanda, especially in the fight against COVID-19:
“As a nation, we look forward to seeing a new generation of brilliant young Rwandans and African scientists working towards the improvement of their continent. Rwanda is heavily investing in the education of its young people, encouraging them to pursue skilled careers in science and innovation to create jobs and improve living standards. Rwanda is proud of its partnership with AIMS. The Ministry of Health in Rwanda has closely worked with scientists including Prof Wilfred Ndifon from AIMS and Prof Leon Mutesa from the University of Rwanda to pioneer new methods of screening COVID-19 infections recently published in the International Scientific Journal,”The Ministry of Health has closely collaborated with scientists and researchers from AIMS, the Rwanda joint COVID-19 taskforce, and the University of Rwanda; who recently published an article in Nature Magazine titled “A pooled testing strategy for identifying SARS-CoV-2 at low prevalence”, which lays out an efficient and cost-effective method to optimise testing for SARS-CoV-2.”
Three Nobel Prize laureates and one Field Medalist will be joining a conversation moderated by AIMS Founder and Board Chair, Prof Neil Turok on the first plenary session of the event to discuss: “Finding the Next Einstein, Preparing Africa to lead in scientific discovery” from 2.45-3.45 CAT, through live and pre-recorded interventions. The NEF Fellows Spotlight Session will also be recognising the class of 2019-2021, and how they are using science to impact their communities.
With a focus on vulnerable groups such as youth and women, the second session for the day looks at the impact of COVID-19. This is geared towards enabling the development of nuanced response measures that factor in existing inequalities. Some of the speakers include Dr Herine Otieno-Menya, Director of AIMS Teacher Training Program, AIMS Global Network; Foster Ofosu, Knowledge, Innovation and Capacity Development Sp., African Development Bank and Eunice Baguma Ball, Founder, Africa Technology Business Network (ATBN).
Meanwhile, on the topic of Combating disease outbreaks: Preventing future shocks – Focus on Ebola and COVID-19, leading global voices will shed light on the need for coordinated health interventions alongside Africa’s strategies to prevent future disease outbreaks. This session will be led by Francisco J. Marmolejo Cossío, Career Development Fellow in Computer Science, University of Oxford; Prof Jeanine CONDO, Associate Professor of Public Health, University of Rwanda and Robert deGraft Kwame Agyarko, Lead Advisor, Outbreaks and Epidemics (O&E), African Risk Capacity (ARC).
Science has been central to informing policy and society in the addressal of COVID-19 and ensuring the successful implementation of the designed policies and the direction of crisis recovery. This is why the next panel will apprehend the role of science in driving crisis recovery, notably in the case of COVID-19. The speakers include Prof Agnes Binagwaho, Vice Chancellor, University of Global Health Equity; Dr Tolullah Oni co-Director, Global Diet and Activity Research Gro, MRC Epidemiology unit, University of Cambridge and Dr Zaheer Allam, Research Associate, Deakin University, Australia.
Lastly, the panel on Leadership during COVID-19: Best practices and recommendations for futuristic policies will be sharing their experiences, best practices, and lessons learned in managing COVID-19 within their contexts, especially in Africa. The panel will feature Prof Mama Foupouagnigni, Chief Academic Officer, AIMS Global Network and Ms. Aurelia Calabro, UNIDO Representative, Ethiopia, United Nations Industrial Development.
The biennial NEF Global Gatherings are the NEF’s marquee event. Far from an ordinary science forum, the NEF Global Gatherings position science at the centre of global development efforts. In the presence of scientists, political and industry leaders, civil society and media, and with a strong focus on youth and women, the voices of global science leaders have the opportunity to be heard and to have a significant impact on Africa’s scientific future.
Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of AIMS.
Founded in 2003, the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) is a pan-African network of centres of excellence for post-graduate training in mathematical sciences, research and public engagement in STEM. With centres in South Africa, Senegal, Ghana, Cameroon and Rwanda, AIMS is leading Africa’s socio-economic transformation through innovative scientific training, cutting-edge research, and public engagement. With expertly tailored academic and non-academic programs spanning through Centres of Excellence, Research Centres, the AIMS Industry Initiative and Gender-Responsive Teacher Training, AIMS equally created two critical initiatives: Quantum Leap Africa, which aspires to do leading-edge research in quantum science, and the Next Einstein Forum, which is positioning Africa to become an important player in global science. For more information, visit www.nexteinstein.org.
More at nef.org
Dr Layih Butake
Senior Outreach Manager & Acting Director of Communications, AIMS
African Media Agency