The preparations for the Next Einstein Forum (NEF) global gathering 2018 due next week at the Kigali Convention Centre are in advanced stages, according to organisers.
The forum, which is a high-level science and innovation gathering for development will be taking place for the second time after being hosted in Dakar, Senegal in 2016, and it is expected to draw more than 1,000 participants from the continent.
But what is it that all these people will be gathering to do in Kigali, and how important is it?
According to forum organisers, the biennial global event will convene the world of science and technology to unveil breakthroughs in science, respond to existing challenges and look to the future. “In this way, the NEF is unique,” they say.
The forum is expected to take place on March 26-28, featuring keynote speeches and panel discussions of different players within the science, technology and innovation space.
Nathalie Munyampenda, the managing director of NEF, an initiative of African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), told The New Times on Monday that curtain raiser events started with Gender Summit Africa held on Monday and Tuesday.
“For the first time, participants at the Gender Summit are discussing how to use a gender lens in promoting climate science. This doesn’t mean having more women climate scientists, it’s also making sure that the science we are producing is also taking women into account,” she said.
The summit, she added, is offering a platform for dialogue for scientists, gender scholars and policy makers, as well as leading stakeholders in science endeavor. It is part of other pre-events that will be taking place, leading up to the main forum.
Munyampenda believes that although so many things are happening, African science is hidden, making it impossible for Africa to greatly benefit from science field.
“We do not know what African scientists are doing and what contributions they have. The conference, therefore, helps scientists and other stakeholders to discuss what’s happening on the continent,” she said, adding that this is critical as it strengthens collaborations.
The three-day main event will provide a chance for Heads of State and government to deliberate on the white paper titled: Laying the groundwork for knowledge led Economies. It is a paper that will focus on regulatory framework, scientific culture and capacity, and partnerships and structured financing required to build knowledge led economies.
Munyampenda explained that the presidential panel will offer a platform to the heads of state and government to discuss their aspirations and commitments vis-a-vis the paper’s recommendations.
Another expected outcomes of this particular panel is the endorsement of the Kigali declaration aiming to create a pan-African innovation-driven community.
Other curtain raiser events
Part of the forum are workshops that will be hosted, particularly those that focus on data science, science leadership, media communication for scientists, as well as research capacity building, among others.
“Data to Quantum is among other workshops, and this is important because Rwanda is going to be hosting Quantum Leap Africa, which hopes to be a continental research institution in quantum sciences and the first of its kind in Africa. The workshops are building up momentum for the launch of the centre,” Munyampenda noted.
Ojo Akin Omololu, the Director of East African Institute for Fundamental Research (EAIFR) said: “As a physicist, this is certainly a big platform. I think it is always a great idea to bring people together to share experiences. But beyond this, the forum is a platform to showcase research and the power of science, as well as connect with investors who are interested in promoting science and innovation.”
Although scientists have some platforms through which their work can be validated, Omololu thinks such a global gathering helps expand reach of the work they do, and ultimately reach the public who are the end-users or the beneficiaries of whatever breakthroughs and innovations being developed.
In our previous story, the president and CEO of AIMS, Thierry Zomahoun said Quantum Leap Africa Research Centre would be a key component to usher the continent into the quantum revolution and accelerate Africa’s economic transformation through science and innovation.
Organisers are optimistic that this year’s conversations will boost efforts to setup the research centre.
Another key pre-event expected to happen is the Interdisciplinary Solutions Conference (Intersol) 2018. This is an international conference dedicated to the advancement of interdisciplinary research that address peoples’ needs in underserved areas.
Participants will discuss novel research results related to innovations and interdisciplinary solutions for underserved areas.
Ci2i Challenge Top 15 Pitching Session
Africa’s top 16 innovators, pre-screened by the NEF team and a smaller Scientific Programme Committee, will participate in the NEF Ci2i Challenge Top 15 Pitching Session. Climate smart innovations, personalised health care innovations and deep-tech innovations are the different categories for which candidates applied. The Challenge of Invention to Innovation (Ci2i) is the NEF’s innovation competition.
Best research based innovations with potential for impact and immediate scale up will be awarded.
Munyampenda emphasised that such a platform would showcase some of the potential that science has, and create an awareness among private sector that she thinks are still not on board when it comes to investing in scientific innovations.
The forum will run under the theme: Connecting Science to Humanity.