STEM which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics is poised to be a game changer towards the long-term economic development and prosperity of the African continent. For so long, Africa has been mischaracterized, misjudged, belittled and underrated by the West. But a new thing is happening. Africa is rising like a phoenix from the ashes, and getting ready to redeem its lost glory. Many young people are returning back to the continent with the sole purpose of making a contribution to the growth and prosperity of the continent.
Investors are turning their eyes to the amazing things that are now happening on the continent as its young entrepreneurs break new grounds and come up with meaningful innovations that are changing the world one person at a time. In order for us to see this growth and prosperity at scale, we will need to have a critical mass of these kinds of activities taking place across the continent. This means that we will need to get more young people involved in STEM which is the bedrock of innovation and economic development. This is what the Next Einstein Forum (www.nef.org) sought to do this year through the maiden edition of the African Science Week.
The Next Einstein Forum’s (NEF) Africa Science Week (ASW) will be Africa’s annual weeklong celebration of science and technology with thousands of individuals – from students, to scientists to technologists – actively engaging in coordinated science events across the continent throughout June 2017. ASW wants to encourage citizens to get involved, participate in the NEF’s 1mil1 campaign and become interested in science and technology, and how it impacts their daily lives. For this maiden edition, the NEF’s ASW held in 13 countries: Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania.
The NEF African Science Week event in Cameroon was a huge success. It was well attended over its 3-day run in spite of the heavy rains. This was significant proof of the fact that the young people of Cameroon are truly passionate about STEM and also that they see their role as pivotal to the socio-economic development of the country. The event kicked off with an Opening Ceremony on Tuesday 27 June 2017 at Chariot Hotel, Buea with hackathons “side-events” running simultaneously in Yaounde and Limbe. The Keynote speaker for the Opening Ceremony was Mr. James Ntui, IT Manager at Addax Petroleum Company of Cameroon who opened the minds of the participants about their roots in STEM by going back to thousands of years of documented evidence about the things their forefathers did and why STEM is such an important path towards creating sustainable development in Cameroon and Africa at large. His talk was titled “When We Were Kings” and a must listen to for every Cameroonian youth who is serious about forging a career in STEM and impacting humanity positively.
This was followed by another powerful speaker, engineer, and culture savvy, Dr. Alex Bede, Co-Founder of IYA Buea who talked about the power of innovation and its reflection on the work they are doing to universalize and democratize the Cameroonian (and African) food and hospitality industry with contemporary culinary techniques.Other activities followed suite and the day wrapped up with former cracker turned Ethical Hacker, Mr. Zuo Bruno who opened the eyes of the young people to the interesting and ever expanding field of Cyber Security and his vision to train thousands of young cyber security professionals across Cameroon over the next decade. At the same time, taking place simultaneously were the hackathon side-events led by Mrs. Janet Fofang and Mr. Zuo in Yaounde and Limbe respectively. In Yaounde, the hackathon event, started off with an hour long Press Conference which was heavily covered by the media. After the press conference there was a brief coffee break after which the teams came together to hack.
For the second day, the Women in STEM came together in Buea and Yaounde for a time of networking and presentations on various aspects. They had presentations on; The Impact of Academic Stress and Malaria on Cardiovascular Parameters During and Out of Exam Periods on UB Students, STEM fields, Ideal Equipment for Business,Industrial Agriculture Can Feed the World but Will Slowly Destroy It, Ascending the Academic Ladder as a Woman, Cervical Cancer and Women in STEM Communities in Buea. They even took it a bit further so that non-STEM participants could feel more at ease in the house by carrying out practical sessions in which they looked at the Science behind hair products, face cream and a practical session on Yoghurt making to help those interested in starting their own Yoghurt manufacturing business.
After this we had a presentation from Dr. Patrice Ndambomve, Mathematics Lecturer at the University of Buea and Co-Founder of Math Entrepreneurs who tried to demystify the perception of people towards Mathematics. He talked about the importance of Mathematics, its different fields and areas of application. The talk was titled, “Mathematics in Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurship in Mathematics.” This was followed by several other activities after which the participants moved over to the grill for some barbecue and networking.
The event was hugely a success as many could testify and resolved to apply everything they had learned almost immediately. As we look forward to expanding this event to 30 African countries by 2018 and all 54 by 2020, let us continue to ignite the power of Science.