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Mandela Institute Seeks to Narrow Science, Technology Gap in Sub-Saharan Africa

Mandela Institute Seeks to Narrow Science, Technology Gap in Sub-Saharan Africa

Nelson Mandela, along with a number of distinguished African scholars, is determined to lead Sub-Saharan Africa out of the furrows of economic instability using science and technology.

The Nelson Mandela Institution for Knowledge Building and the Advancement of Science and Technology in Sub-Saharan Africa, or NMI, introduced Mandela’s latest effort in Washington last month.

In partnership with the World Bank Institute and the World Bank Group-IMF African Society, the NMI will launch the African Institute of Science and Technology, four world-class educational institutions of science and technology evenly distributed throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. These institutions will promote excellence in science and engineering and seek to narrow the growing scientific and technological gaps between Sub-Saharan Africa and the rest of the world.

The Sub-Saharan African Learning Network will be an added feature of the AIST program. The establishment of the network will facilitate continuing education and knowledge distribution and will enhance the collaboration between the AIST regional institutes and private industry, public policy  makers and other academic institutions.

Dr. Frannie A. Leautier, vice president of the World Bank Institute, says the capacity of Sub-Saharan Africa to progress both scientifically and technologically will determine the outcome of the continent’s future. No country has been able to develop without investing in science and technology.

While technological advances have propelled the development of other poverty-stricken nations, Sub-Saharan Africa’s lack of technological advancement has submerged it deeper into economic instability. In North Africa, where economic development has grown faster than in any other African region, there is an average of 423 scientists and engineers per million people. In Sub-Saharan Africa there are only 83.

Dr. Wole Soboyejo, Princeton University professor and chair of the African Scientific Committee, gave an overview of AIST’s goals, departments and degrees. “These institutions will feature leading scholars that will conduct cutting-edge research. They will produce not just scientists, but well-rounded critical thinkers and entrepreneurs,” he says.

AIST will offer instruction in science and engineering comparable to that of Ivy League institutions at undergraduate, graduate and post graduate levels, according to officials. Areas of instruction will include computer science, engineering, chemistry, agriculture and mathematics.

Soboyejo says that science and technology will serve as the engine for economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa, adding that the program will drive the economy by creating new industries and supporting existing ones.

The Nigerian government donated 500 acres of land to support AIST’s headquarters in the capital city of Abuja, and Tanzania donated 5,000 acres of land in Arusha. Organizers expect the first of the four schools to open between 2007 and 2008.

— By Michelle Nealy

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