[DAKAR] Plans are well underway to create an African Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Senegal, according to the project's coordinator.
Mamadou Sangharé, of the department of mathematics and information technology at Cheikh Anta Diop University in the capital Dakar, says AIMS-Senegal is likely to be established in Mbour, a town of about 180,000 inhabitants 80 kilometres south of Dakar.
He says the plans are progressing "very well", largely due to support from the country's political leaders, particularly Senegal's president, Abdoulaye Wade. Wade is providing the site for the centre.
AIMS-Senegal is part of the AIMS Next Einstein Initiative (AIMS-NEI), which aims to establish 15 centres across the continent over the next decade.
Marie-Pierre Barre, project developer of AIMS-NEI, told SciDev.Net that AIMS-Senegal is one of three new AIMS centres to be created in the next few years with similar projects underway in Ethiopia and Ghana.
AIMS has an existing campus in South Africa and a cooperation agreement with the African University of Science and Technology in Nigeria.
The new centre may be built in collaboration with France's Institute for Development Research (IRD) which already owns an experimental ecology reserve outside Mbour.
AIMS-NEI aspires to do more than simply boost mathematical and scientific skills in Africa, says Barre. "It's about connecting universities with the AIMS centre network, and Africa with science worldwide," she says.
Construction is due to start next year. If work is completed to schedule, AIMS-Senegal will be open for business in 2011, admitting 50 students in its first year. It will offer a postgraduate mathematics diploma in both French and English. Graduates will be eligible to enrol onto Masters and PhD courses.
The establishment of AIMS-Senegal is being funded by AIMS-NEI together with the Association for the Scientific Promotion of Africa (APSA), created by French theoretical physicist, Vincent Rivasseau, co-founder of the AIMS-Senegal project. The hope is that other sources, including the Senegalese government, will eventually take over funding.
Sangharé says the objective of AIMS-Senegal is both to train Africans within Africa in mathematical sciences and to help them to work in situ towards the development of the continent.
It is expected that AIMS-Senegal will eventually train over 300 Africans annually at relatively low cost. Most students are likely to come from neighbouring countries — namely Gambia, Mali, Guinea-Bissau and Guinea, says Sangharé.
"One of the strengths of the [AIMS] educational model is the pan-African nature of its recruitment," says Sangharé.