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Two Nobel Laureates, a Fields Medallist, a former Governor General of Canada and Cameroonian Prime Minister gather in Cameroon to search for Africa's Einstein

YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon, Feb. 19, 2014 /CNW/ - Some of the most influential minds in physics and mathematics have joined the Chancellor of the University of Ottawa and previous Governor General of Canada Michaëlle Jean and Prime Minister Philémon Yang in Cameroon's capital city, Yaoundé, to launch the a unique training program, teach the best and brightest students from across the continent and search for the next Einstein in Africa.

The launch event featured a youth forum and speeches by Jean and Yang, and the scientists and a special youth forum. The event detailed how the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences - Next Einstein Initiative (AIMS-NEI) is progressing toward its goal with a new class at the AIMS centre of excellence based in Limbé on Cameroon's Atlantic coast. It was held at the Palais des Congres in the nation's capital. 

"We are proud of what we've accomplished," says Neil Turok, AIMS founder and director of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Canada. "AIMS has graduated 560 Africans with advanced degrees in mathematical sciences and more than a third have been women." 

AIMS opened its fourth centre in Cameroon. It is the first institute in the Central Africa sub region and AIMS-Cameroon's first class has 36 students from 15 African nations, 12 are women. The other centres are located in South Africa, Ghana and Senegal. A total of 45 Cameroonians had become alumni at the other centres prior to the opening. 

"We are pleased to bring our concept to Cameroon. We bring together top global scholars in math and science to teach and research with Africa's brightest students," says Thierry Zomahoun, executive director of the AIMS Global Secretariat. "Our graduates then use these skills to tackle the problems ranging from, disease and famine, to environmental degradation, illiteracy and poverty. AIMS graduates have a broad-based training and are talented problem solvers and innovators." 

The below mathematicians and physicists, along with Neil and Thierry, participated in the launch event and panel discussion:

David Gross, Nobel Laureate 2004
Klaus von Klitzing, Nobel Laureate 1985
Cedric Villani, Fields Medal 2010
Paul Wiegmann, Physicist & Blaise Pascal Chair
Howard Alper, Chair of Science Technology & Innovation Council of Canada
Barry Green, Interim Director, AIMS-Cameroon 

The program is timely as economies in Africa have been experiencing phenomenal growth in the first decade of this century. Many countries had seen economic growth rates greater than 4 per cent and these high growth rates are predicted to continue until 2015. Cameroon has emerged as an economic leader in Central Africa's region. Its economy at $27.9 billion (USD) grew 4.6 per cent in 2013 and is nearly a quarter (24.5%) of the total GDP of the region with $113.9 billion (USD). Cameroon's economy is projected to grow by 4.9 per cent to $30.4 billion (USD) in 2014. As a result, the demand is exploding for a generation of youth that can apply science and math to ensure rapid and stable social and political development.

Yet, only six per cent of post-secondary aged Africans are enrolled in apprenticeships, colleges or universities, compared to the global average of 26 per cent (UNESCO Institute of Statistics, Montreal, 2010). In Europe and North America the enrollment ratio is as high as 80 per cent. The AIMS-NEI is playing a major part in closing this gap in Africa, by opening centres of excellence for training, research and outreach. The plan is to create a network of 15 centres across Africa graduating thousands of mathematical sciences experts - half will be women - annually by the year 2023.

"We are grateful for the support of the Government of Cameroon for the Next Einstein Initiative," says Zomahoun. "This support confirms Cameroon is part of a growing group of African nations that want to raise Africa's profile as a continent where science is ennobled and applied to solve global issues." He also acknowledged the support from the Government of Canada, through the International Development Research Centre, and the Government of Germany

AIMS-Cameroon will also develop Quantum Leap Africa, a world-class centre for research in quantum science. This promising area of science will allow Africa to leapfrog to the forefront of global technology by anticipating the coming revolution in the electronics, information and telecommunications industries. 

Turok, a South African-born physicist known for his work in cosmology, developing and testing theories of the big bang, founded AIMS in 2003. He believes that building capacity in mathematical science is one of the smartest ways to contribute to Africa's development, by investing directly in talented young people, in an efficient, transparent and highly cost-effective way. 

Why focus on mathematical sciences? Because mathematics underlies every modern technology from plumbing to electricity, smartphones to satellites. Its applications range from modelling and planning for economics, communications, transport, energy and health. Yet, it is also completely cross-cultural and free to share. Mathematical science is the foundation for development. Many AIMS graduates have gone on to leading positions in civil institutions and NGOs, as well as in universities, research centres and companies across Africa.

About AIMS and the Next Einstein Initiative
The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) is a pan-African network of centers of excellence for post graduate education, research and outreach in mathematical sciences. Its mission is to enable Africa's brightest students to flourish as independent thinkers, problem solvers and innovators capable of propelling Africa's future scientific, educational and economic self-sufficiency.  AIMS was founded in 2003 and has produced more than 560 graduates, about one third of whom are women. The goal of the Next Einstein Initiative is to build 15 centres of excellence across Africa by 2023. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook

To learn more: www.nexteinstein.org

SOURCE African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS)

Image with caption: "Rt. Hon. Michaelle Jean, Chancellor of University of Ottawa and former Governor General, stands to the left of His Excellency Philemon Yang, Prime Minister of Cameroon, to the right of the PM is Prof. Jacques Fame Ndongo, Minister of Higher Education, and Thierry Zomahoun, Executive Director of the AIMS - Next Einstein Initiative. They are surrounded by officials, scientists and AIMS staff. (CNW Group/African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS))". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20140219_C5545_PHOTO_EN_36881.jpg

Image with caption: "The Rt. Hon. Michaelle Jean, Chancellor of the University of Ottawa and former Governor General, shakes the hand of H.E. Philemon Yang to congratulate him for his government's support of AIMS. (l to r) AIMS founder Neil Turok, Rt. Hon. Michaelle Jean, Prime Minister P. Yang, Barry Green, AIMS-Cameroon Director. (CNW Group/African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS))". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20140219_C5545_PHOTO_EN_36880.jpg

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