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[ADDIS ABABA] Ethiopia hopes to become the next African centre of excellence in mathematical sciences, after Ghana, Senegal and South Africa, with the opening of the fourth African Institute of Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) planned for next year.

AIMS, the brainchild of Neil Turok, director of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, in Canada, was founded in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2003 as a pan-African centre for postgraduate training and research, providing advanced, broadly applicable mathematical skills to talented students.

A second branch of the institute is set to open in Senegal in September. It was announced in May that the third institute will open in Ghana in September 2012.

Semu Mitiku, acting chairperson of the AIMS-Ethiopia steering committee and dean of the faculty of mathematics at Addis Ababa University, told SciDev.Net that a general understanding has been reached between the steering committee and the Ethiopian government on the establishment of the institute.

A detailed action plan is being put together and construction of the institute is expected to begin following a final go-ahead from the government.

Mitiku hopes the centre will be ready to admit students from around the continent in September 2012. "During its initial phase, AIMS Ethiopia has plans to accept up to 35 students from across the continent," he said.

The Next Einstein Initiative, a programme set up by AIMS-South Africa to oversee to the setting up of 15 such institutes across Africa, will part-fund the Ethiopian institute. Ethiopia is expected to provide matching funds for construction and also provide the running costs after start-up.

Since 2003, more than 300 students from 31 African countries have received postgraduate degrees from AIMS-South Africa. And in the past six years four Ethiopians per year, on average, have received scholarships from the institute.

"AIMS Ethiopia is at a very initial stage but it is going very well. There is a lot of enthusiasm, and a lot of people are very interested in the project and wish to support it," said Sarah Jackson, project developer for AIMS-Ethiopia.

Jackson said that training at AIMS-Ethiopia will focus on mathematical modelling applicable to areas relevant to the country's development, such as agriculture and climate change

Amsalework Ayele, a mathematician at Bahir Dar University, Ethiopia, and former AIMS scholarship recipient, said that the opening of an AIMS branch in Ethiopia was an opportunity not just for students but for science professors to learn from the experiences of renowned scientists coming to the institute.

Ultimately it is hoped that there will be 15 such centres of excellence across Africa.

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