Africa Urgently Needs to Invest in Women in STEM to Drive Fourth Industrial Revolution, says NEF Managing Director

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Africa urgently needs to invest in the training and retention of African women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) from a secondary to a post-doctoral level. Nathalie Munyampenda, Next Einstein Forum (NEF) Managing Director, has said. 

Speaking ahead of a high profile meeting to be held in Kigali, Rwanda, she stated that those who will benefit from the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be those that leverage research and development.

The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. The Fourth Industrial Revolution builds on the Third, and is also known as the digital revolution.

“Science needs women. This isn’t a platitude, it is an economic and societal imperative. Just look at the work that the female members of the NEF Community of Scientists are doing; they demonstrate the highest levels of scientific excellence and concrete impact to our global community,” she explained.

Launched in 2013, the Next Einstein Forum is an initiative of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in partnership with the Robert Bosch Stiftung. The NEF is a platform that connects science, society and policy in Africa and the rest of the world – with the goal to leverage science for human development globally.

Next Einstein Forum female Fellows are breaking barriers in non-invasive measures of health, nanotechnology for cancer and Alzheimer’s treatment, treating and preventing malnutrition, type 2 Diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, next generation health systems and technology policies, plant defense in forest species, upcycling waste, and explaining Einstein’s fudge factor, to name only a few areas.

“What is clear is that in most cases the world does not know or value the contributions to female scientists to science or society. In the case of female African scientists, the Next Einstein Forum is working to put female scientists front and centre of the discussion on global research and innovation. Their work is valuable to science, and it is valuable for global development. As we collectively #PressforProgress, we must highlight their contributions,” said Mr. Thierry Zomahoun, NEF Founder and Chair and the President and CEO of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS).

According to UNESCO, the number of women around the world pursuing a career in science and technology is estimated at 28% and only 30% of STEM professionals in Sub-Saharan Africa are women. And yet, robust and sturdy capacities in STEM are pivotal to contributing to a country or continent’s transformation.

A report from the World Bank in 2014 noted that Sub-Saharan Africa’s notable economic growth in recent years is reflected in its growing capacity for research in the STEM fields.

For instance, South African NEF Fellow Dr. Vinet Coetzee leads a team which developed an affordable 3D camera, at one tenth of the price of comparable commercial systems, to identify the specific facial features associated with Down syndrome in African infants. She plans to expand this research to other conditions.

Professor Maha Nasr from Egypt is exploring the possibility of creation of novel carriers for treatment of diseases, mainly for cancer and Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Sanushka Naidoo from South Africa Sanushka is focusing on mechanisms that can confer broad-spectrum, long lasting resistance (from forest species) by dissecting gene families and responses to pests and pathogens.

Dr. Aku Kwamie from Ghana devotes her energies on health systems governance which is a central pillar in ensuring equitable health care for all which is especially significant in countries with vast stretches of land and uneven development.

These NEF Fellows are working to discover sustainable and viable solutions to problems that face humanity. They will be presenting their work at the NEF Global Gathering 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda on March 26th, 2018.

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