Dr. Justus Masa, a Ugandan Lecturer at Kyambogo University and Senior Group Leader of Electrocatalysis and Energy at Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany is among the 17 NEF Fellow award winners at this year’s Next Einstein Forum (NEF) Global Gathering in Kigali, Rwanda.
The event took place at Kigali Convention Centre from 26th to 28th March, 2018. The NEF fellows programme is a two-year programme which recognizes and awards Africa’s young scientists, innovators and technologists. The 2017/2019 winners emerged from Uganda, Rwanda, South Africa, Niger, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Guinea, DRC, Ethiopia, Tunisia, Ghana, Senegal, Egypt, Nigeria, and Mali.
The strategic objective of NEF Community of Scientists includes, harnessing the benefits of science and innovation to influence policy, education, training, leadership, research excellence, funding, and collaboration. Of these scientists, innovators and emerging leaders, 40% are women. NEF fellows or Ambassadors participate in campaigns and events to encourage young people to pursue scientific careers and drive research-based incubators and start-ups.
The High-profile function was graced by H.E. Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda and H.E Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal who were panelists noting that prioritizing science and innovation can lead to economic development. In his remarks, President Kagame used the history of Rwanda and how the government zeroed on the ecosystem of investing in ICT in the early 2000s when every sector was in shambles but the country has seen the dividends from that investment especially with regards to the people-centered approach they undertook (human capacity development).
He informed that many of the young scientists, almost 80% they sent abroad in the 2000s have returned home and are currently the driving force of innovation, research and development in both government and the private sector. The approach to empower women and girls has helped to bridge the education imbalance gap. He further informed that between 15% to 17% of their GDP is geared towards education and health.
President Macky Sall noted that they envisage NEF becoming a yearly event bringing together African Heads of State to support science and innovation to enhance development in Africa like the recently concluded Continental Free Trade Agreement.
Among the Next Einstein Initiatives is the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences(AIMS) which is Africa’s first and biggest pan African network of centres for postgraduate training, research and public engagement in mathematical sciences. It operates centres in South Africa, Senegal, Cameroon, Ghana, Tanzania and Rwanda.