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The campus in Mbour, Senegal was opened in September and is now educating its first class of students. It's a branch of the Cape Town, South Africa-based African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, or AIMS, which has been working to address these issues since 2003.
Professor Mamadou Sanghare, the director of the center, says it aims to train young Africans in mathematical sciences for careers in economics, agriculture, medicine, information and telecommunications technology, and good governance. He says the lecturers are among some of the best in the world but with a pan-African focus to encourage students to use critical thinking for resolving the continent’s problems.
At the end of this year, students will be awarded a diploma that will enable them to further their studies at universities and research centers and work in industries throughout Africa.
The students were selected based their academic achievements and recommendations. All of them benefit from full scholarships from institutions in Europe and North America. Room and board are free.
Officials say the AIMS schools are prepared for the long term, with full commitments from donors and from Senegal’s leaders.
Professor Sanghare says countries like Canada have supported the project with $20 million. The Senegalese government has provided land and over half a million dollars, and a number of French universities have sent their lecturers to teach for free. He says the institution will be able to run for the next five years with currently available grants.
The original AIMS campus in Cape Town has graduated more than 300 students - about a third of them women. They are researchers, teachers, epidemiologists, business people and financial experts and even climatologists. More than a third have gone on to pursue PhDs.
There are plans to open new centers in Ghana this year and in Ethiopia in 2013.