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[BANJUL] The Gambia has announced the creation of its first science academy, which will address the shortage of scientists in the country.

The academy will prepare students at primary and secondary level for university-level science, technology and mathematics courses.

Initiated by the Gambian president, Yahya Jammeh, the academy — based in the western town of Kanilai — is scheduled to open in September 2008. Construction will start in September this year.

Chair of research and strategy at the University of Gambia, Momodou Jain, told SciDev.Net that this is a first step towards putting science at the centre of Gambian economic development.

The Taiwanese Government has donated US$344,718 to the project — 20 per cent of the total costs to run the project for one year.

The Taiwanese ambassador to the Gambia, Patrick Chang, made the donation last month (May 29) at the announcement of the proposed academy at the office of Crispin Grey Johnson, secretary of state for higher education, research, science and technology, in Banjul.

Johnson described the project as a breakthrough and applauded the government and people of Taiwan for the excellent friendship and partnership they have shown in efforts to develop the Gambia.

Other funding is being sourced from the private sector, foreign donors and the government.

A committee — made up of scientists and representatives of private-sector companies — has been set up to ensure that the academy is successful in addressing the shortage of scientists in different sectors of the economy.

Currently, the Gambia suffers shortages in areas such as research institutions, information and communication technology, and in the private sector.

The Gambia Technical Training Institution has been contracted to supervise the project.