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President Paul Kagame has said that the world, and more precisely Africa, needs more scientists and engineers to harness the transformative power of science to serve the continent’s targets for sustainable development and prosperity.
President Kagame was officiating at the opening of the 27th General Meeting for The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), which attracted over 300 participants from 53 countries.
TWAS is a global organisation aimed at advancing science in developing countries to support sustainable prosperity through research, education, policy and diplomacy.
The participants of the weeklong meeting include science ministers and other policymakers from across the globe, elite researchers, and leaders from science associations, funding agencies and non-governmental organisations.
President Kagame said there is still a lot of work to be done on the continent and in other developing countries, with regards to investing in academic and institutional infrastructure, partnerships and research.
« Investment in research and development in Africa and other areas is still too low. In most countries, less than one out of three researchers are women. Our continent urgently needs to produce many more scientists and engineers generally, » Kagame said.
That is why, he says, the partnership in applied science, engineering and technology initiative to train 10,000 PhD level researchers, science and technology students is very critical.
Under the Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology (PASET) initiative, nine African countries, including Rwanda and four emerging economic powers – China, Korea, India and Brazil – formed a partnership in 2013 in response to the critical need to strengthen the scientific and technological capacity of Sub-Saharan African countries, to advance their development and economic transformation.
To achieve this goal, PASET aims to strengthen collaboration between African governments, the private sector, development partners, and new partner countries from Asia and Latin America.
The President urged governments to do their part, in fostering science and technology, while making the sector attractive for private sector to get involved.
He added, « The scientific mindset makes us better people in both conception and utilisation. Scientific work is blind to divisions or prejudices that only hinder further progress for everybody. Our common dignity as human beings matters and no one can be left out of the scientific enterprise. »
Bai Chunli, president of TWAS, said Africa is endowed with plenty of resources and requires enough scientific researchers in various fields, such as agriculture, health, and education to translate those resources into development dividends.
He hailed President Kagame and the people of Rwanda for being a « testament » that science and technology can be a tool to address human challenges and build more prosperous communities.
« During the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, schools were damaged, equipment destroyed, many teachers and professors were killed and others forced to leave. Our meeting here is testament of the vision of President Kagame and the energy of the people of Rwanda who have been working to rebuild the country, » Chunli said.
President Kagame was also accorded the TWAS medal for embracing science, technology and innovation for sustainable development in Rwanda and Africa
Muhammed Hassan, the TWAS secretary general, said the award also represented the friendship that Kagame has shown to the academy.
In a brief acceptance statement, Kagame thanked TWAS for the award, adding that, « this medal honours all the Rwandans whose hard work has got our country to where it is today. »
Meanwhile, Education minister Papias Musafiri said the meeting will review research successes and powerful ideas that shape science in the developing world, while there will also be a ministerial meeting on innovation for sustainability, among others.
Dr Musafiri said there would also be a session devoted to science in Rwanda, which will feature presentations by young Rwandan scientists on research that will address many of the challenges facing the country.