Industry experts have this week convened in Rwanda for a global gathering that aims to boost Africa’s economic potential through the use of new technology.
The three-day Gathering, known as the Next Einstein Forum (NEF), officially kicked off on Monday, March, 26th, 2018, after months of planning as stakeholders came together to discuss Blockchain, women in science and inspired research.
A blockchain is a digitized, decentralized, public ledger of all cryptocurrency transactions. Originally developed as the accounting method for the virtual currency Bitcoin, blockchains are appearing in a variety of commercial applications today.
The Next Einstein Forum, which will run for three days, has seen industry experts push for the adoption of blockchain technology in Africa.
The Gathering is a biennial event bringing together the continent’s top scientists, policy-makers, and innovators. The affair kicked off in the Rwandan capital under the theme “Connecting science to humanity”, and saw speakers from academia, industry , civil society and government zooming in on science and technology issues affecting the continent.
“Africa’s young people can re-invent and re-invigorate the sciences if properly equipped,” said Thierry Zomahoun, the NEF Founder and Chairman, who also heads up the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) at the opening ceremony of the 2018 NEF in Kigali on Monday.
“We must invest in Africa’s most important resource in the next century: young scientists who will drive research driven innovation. This is the fastest way to chart our own path to self-reliance and global competitiveness,” Zomahoun added as he launched the three-day conference.
Zomahoun announced that, as in 2016, the Forum would run the “Challenge of Invention to Innovation” competition, where sixteen finalists will compete for a $25,000 prize each in the three categories: data and deep tech innovations, climate smart innovations and personalized health innovations.
Building knowledge-based economies of citizens highly competent in science and mathematics is the key to African countries achieving the high income status necessary to climb out of poverty and take their place in global network of innovators, Rwandan President Paul Kagame said at the Forum.
The “Women in Science” panel, hosted by Johnson & Johnson Innovation, tackled the persistent gender inequality evident in the science and STEM field and discussed finding solutions against unequal pay and the unique obstacles faced by women in the field.
“We need to fix the system. We need to think about the conditions in the pipeline itself. We need to do more than just plug the holes,” said epidemiologist and NEF fellow Dr. Tolu Oni.
Topics such as blockchain and cryptocurrencies roused particular interest, especially following last week’s signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement by forty-four African countries, laying the ground for what could be the largest trade bloc in the world.
The consensus between the panel and the audience debating the “Opportunities for Blockchain Technologies in Addressing Africa’s Challenges” was that there were as many challenges as opportunities in the process of realising the future promised by blockchain technology.
“Before these kinds of applications can replace fiat currency they must have the full support of governments. This forum shines a light on these technologies, as so many decision makers are gathered here,” said Professor Sam Yala, Account Manager at Belgian e-payments firm Worldline and a Professor at Kinshasa University.
Kenyan born Blockchain specialist at IBM Komminist Weldermariam argued that even before blockchain could be used as a continental common currency, it could be used to simplify and speed-up cross border transactions by creating a sort of digital ledger.