African and world leaders have convened at the first-ever Next Einstein Forum Global Gathering, issuing a joint call to action for increased investment and support for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in Africa.
“The NEF Global Gathering is providing a platform to nurture African talent so the continent can return to its roots as the cradle of innovation,” says Macky Sall, president of Senegal. “Africa has a rich history of science as does Senegal and we’re creating a ‘city of knowledge’ as proof of our commitment to investing in the education of our youth.
“Science must better our society. I would like to especially salute our women scientists because a future without diversity is not representative of our society. At the heart of our policy is to put an accent on the education of women and girls and the support of STEM. Together, we must meet the challenge of producing the next African Einstein- be it a man or a woman.”
Over the next three days, the 2016 NEF Global Gathering, which takes place at the Abdou Diouf International Conference Centre in Dakar, Senegal, will welcome more than 800 scientific and industry influencers, policymakers, business leaders, civil society and advocates committed to building a strong STEM ecosystem across the continent. Dignitaries present on the opening day included Sall, Paul Kagame, president of the Republic of Rwanda and a high-level roster of science, technology and education ministers from Ethiopia, Morocco, Cameroon and Nigeria – all participants in the NEF Presidential Panel. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon shared written remarks.
“Many local challenges have global consequences and finding sustainable solutions will require transformative thinking, strong leadership, significant investment and deeper engagement. We’re thrilled to welcome the world to Dakar to witness Africa’s emergence on the global scientific stage,” says Thierry Zomahoun, NEF chairperson and president and CEO of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS).
Science and technology-driven innovation is an undeniable engine for economic growth and social inclusion. Today, a lack of investment in R&D and STEM fields is stunting Africa’s growth as the continent contributes just 1 percent of global research output while losing 35% of aid – about $4-billion – each year to STEM-related expatriate jobs. An initiative of AIMS in partnership with the Robert Bosch Stiftung, NEF’s mission is close the STEM deficit and empower a new generation of scientific genius.
In a written message, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon comments: “Science is a force multiplier for advancing progress across all the Sustainable Development Goals. Today, more than ever, we must nurture, support and harness the full power of the sciences as a force for more inclusive, sustainable development. We need this especially for Africa, to underpin the rights, dignity, creativity and innovation of all Africans and reinforce the foundations of Africa’s progress.”
“Africa is global talent pool of the future, provided we work together now to make the necessary investments. Three principles derived from our experience have been very helpful to us in transforming Rwanda. First, always work in a spirit of partnership and collaboration, within Africa and globally. Second, we cannot afford to wait around, so get started on the journey using our own resources, ideas, and institutions. Third, women are at least half of our talent pool, and progress is impossible without their full participation at every level,” says Kagame.
By building on its wealth of human capital – a young, largely unemployed and wholly untapped pool of talent – Africa is poised to emerge as a leader in the global scientific community. The 2016 NEF Global Gathering will help make this vision a reality by combining the unique perspectives and resources offered by government, academia, industry and public and private sectors, to strengthen Africa’s science infrastructure.
In honour of International Women’s Day, the NEF Global Gathering 2016 hosted a dynamic panel discussion reflecting on progress to date promoting African Women in STEM, ongoing initiatives and future opportunities.