Friday, August 8, 2008
Advancing Science and Technology Education in Africa: The AUST Project
It is said that a few years ago when James Wolfesohn, former President of the World Bank, asked Nelson Mandela what he thought was the greatest need for development in Africa, Mandela unhesitatingly replied that it was human capacity in science and technology. Mandela’s statement inspired the World Bank to initiate the Nelson Mandela Institute/African Institute of Science and Technology project in 2004. The original vision was to create a world-class Pan-African research-oriented institution composed of higher education campuses and smaller affiliated centers of excellence throughout sub-Saharan Africa. This institution would be capable of training the next generation of African scientists and engineers and profoundly impacting the continent’s development.
This July marked the commencement of the first academic year at the first of the four proposed campuses: AUST Abuja. The next campus is likely to be in Arusha, Tanzania. 55 students were admitted into post-graduate courses at Abuja. Instructors include outstanding science and engineering professors from the African diaspora committed to helping the project succeed.
As a member of the African Scientific Committee (ASC) of the Nelson Mandela Institute, one of the things I find most exciting about this experiment is the fact that several of Africa’s best science and engineering students will be gathered in one place—I expect an explosion of creativity!
At the end of June, my wife, Dr. Fran Osseo-Asare, and I hosted a reception at the Legon Guest Centre restaurant for the Ghanaian AUST students. Eight of them were able to attend, along with several guests. Registrar A. T. Konu and Prof. Awotwi, Vice Dean of the School of Research and Graduate Studies, were present to provide words of encouragement and advice.
Below is a brief video featuring the students at the reception sharing their interests and hopes and aspirations.