ESTABLISHMENT OF AMMSI
The African Mathematics Millennium Science Initiative (AMMSI) is a project established by the Millennium Science Initiative (MSI), in consultation with the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) and the African Academy of Sciences (AAS). The primary goal of the MSI, established in 1999, is to create and nurture world-class science and scientific talent in the developing world by strengthening S&T capacity through integrated programmes of research and training, planned and driven by local scientists. The MSI, administered by the Science Initiative Group (SIG), works closely with the World Bank, TWAS and local scientific communities to design programmes of particular value to local needs and opportunities. To date the MSI has launched successful programmes in a number of countries, namely, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Venezuela; meanwhile a programme for Vietnam is currently under design.
After several years of planning, an African Task Force designed the African Millennium Science Initiative, to be implemented in sub-Sahara Africa. The Task Force was emphatic in its decision to support mathematics as one of its three primary thrusts, the other two being biology and instrumentation/information technology. This led to the formation of the African Mathematics Millennium Science Initiative (AMMSI), in 2002. The decision to support mathematics was stimulated both by the enthusiasm and talent of the mathematical community, despite its small size, and on the decisive importance of the discipline to countries seeking to advance their own development.
The Millennium Science Initiative (MSI) is designed to accelerate the development of nations by building stronger capacities in science, scientific leadership, and the uses of science. In 2000 the MSI established an African MSI Task Force, in consultation with the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) and the African Academy of Sciences (AAS). The mission of the African MSI Task Force was to support the African scientific leadership in equipping more Africans with the tools of modern science, linking scientific programs together as partnerships, and promoting the uses of science for the benefit of society. Over the next few years, the Task Force designed a programme of three components: biology, information technology, and mathematics.
In order to proceed with the programme in mathematics, the African MSI Task Force proposed the establishment of the African Mathematics Millennium Science Initiative (AMMSI). In November 2002, the Science Initiative Group (SIG), in consultation with the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) and leading African mathematicians and scientists, took the first step towards making AMMSI a reality by:
Appointing Professor Herbert Clemens of the Department of Mathematics at The Ohio State University, USA, as consultant for AMMSI.
Sending a letter of invitation to a number of mathematicians to participate in a Writing Group (WG) that would prepare a draft proposal for funding.
Dr. Alan Anderson, a grant writer and MSI consultant, was appointed by the SIG to help render the drafts of the AMMSI proposal.
The Writing Group gathered information from various sources and examined documentation of past MSI meetings and discussions. At the beginning of its operation, the Working Group distributed a questionnaire, to a wide cross-section of individuals in Africa and internationally, soliciting contributions on various aspects of AMMSI, including activities to be undertaken and organizational structure. The Writing Group also held two meetings.
The1st meeting was held in Nairobi, Kenya, during 12 – 15 March, 2003. Professor Fritz Hahne, of Stellenbosch University and the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), South Africa, was invited to participate in the meeting. The 2nd meeting was held in Uppsala, Sweden, during 21 – 22 May 2003.
In between the meetings the Writing Group held follow-up discussions via electronic mail and telephone on successive versions of the draft proposal.
A draft proposal was submitted to the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) in July 2003. In October 2003, following comments by members of the SAC, the Writing Group sent out a questionnaire to a number of universities in Africa containing a survey on salaries, staffing, postgraduate and postdoctoral programs, research, availability of computers, among other items. The views expressed by members of the SAC and the respondents to the two questionnaires were taken into account while drafting the final proposal which was submitted to the SIG in December 2003. The SIG subsequently approached a number of potential funders.
In June 2004, a meeting, partly supported by the Mellon Foundation , was held in Nairobi, Kenya, and brought together representatives from AMMSI, the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) and other institutions and organizations interested in the development and promotion of mathematics in Africa.
In October 2004, the Mellon Foundation and the International Mathematics Union (IMU) provided some seed money to enable initial activities be undertaken during 2005 and 2006 involving research and visiting scientist fellowships, postgraduate scholarships and support for two conferences. The same month a Programmes Committee to plan and implement these activities was constituted. Consequently, AMMSI started its operations in January 2005.
Training & Education
Research is essential for discovery of knowledge and the application of the findings for the benefit of society. It is rare for faculty members in Africa to have sufficient funds, or time from teaching and administrative duties, to perform their own research.
One of the highest priorities of the AMMSI is to provide the opportunity to do so and, where appropriate, to support demonstrations of the application of mathematical work to societal needs.
Linkages & Networks
In Africa, the practice and teaching of mathematics are gravely hampered by the relative isolation of mathematicians from one another. This isolation is largely a function of the small population of mathematicians and the large distances between them.
The AMMSI intends to support linkages, networks, and movement of mathematicians that can foster more collaborative activities and, to some extent, combat the relative isolation of mathematicians.