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The quest for the next Einstein in Africa

The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences is training Africa’s top minds.

IDRC is implementing Canada’s $44.6 million contribution to expand the network of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS). AIMS provides rigorous mathematics training to African postgraduate students.

Mathematical sciences are the backbone of a modern economy. Solutions to complex challenges in health, agriculture, climate change adaptation, and finance, for example, all require advanced mathematical modelling skills.

In 2003, AIMS opened its doors in Cape Town, South Africa. Its goal: to help Africa produce and use science and technology for its development. Each year, Africa’s top students enroll in a rigorous 10-month graduate-level course that leads to a master's degree in mathematical sciences.

​Expanding the base for excellence in Africa

AIMS is based on a simple concept: it is a space where Africa's brightest graduates are taught by the world’s best lecturers. All AIMS students benefit from full scholarships and all teaching staff are volunteers drawn from some of the world’s best universities. Among the professors are Nobel Prize winners and several recipients of the Fields Medal, often considered to be the highest award in mathematics.

The Next Einstein Initiative

Since its launch, AIMS has won global recognition as a centre of excellence for postgraduate education and research. Building on its success, AIMS launched the Next Einstein Initiative (NEI) in 2008 to train a critical mass of scientific and technical talent in Africa, capable of driving progress across the continent. The result will be a pan-African network of AIMS centres by 2023. AIMS-NEI envisions that people of rare ability —Africa’s own Einsteins — will emerge, capable of innovative breakthroughs to transform Africa's future.

Investing in Africa's future

AIMS-NEI is supported through public and private funding, including an initial $20 million investment from the Government of Canada, announced in July 2010 and provided through IDRC. Canada’s lead investment helped fund new AIMS centres across Africa.

AIMS-NEI’s success led to a commitment from the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in 2012 to match up to CA$29 million over five years for the initiative. These funds, managed by IDRC, supported the establishment of three additional centres, and provided consolidated funding for existing centres.

To date, five new AIMS centres have opened: AIMS-Senegal (2011), AIMS-Ghana (2012), AIMS-Cameroon (2013), AIMS-Tanzania (2014), and AIMS-Rwanda (2016).

IDRC also contributed an additional CA$2 million to enhance postgraduate opportunities for AIMS-NEI alumni. IDRC’s contribution supported research by AIMS graduates to foster industry-research linkages and created IDRC African Research Chairs in fields such as mathematics, physics, and astronomy.

In 2016, the Government of Canada announced an additional CA$22.6 million in funding that will be channeled through Global Affairs Canada and IDRC. This new phase is focused on AIMS training African mathematical scientists to develop climate change adaptation and mitigation solutions. A specialized program in climate change science will be available to students at AIMS-Rwanda and AIMS-Tanzania, and fellowships will be offered to outstanding African women mathematical scientists working on climate change issues. This new funding will also contribute to the opening of a new AIMS centre in francophone Africa in 2018.

For more information, visit the AIMS–NEI website.


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