Building research capacity and interface to applications in Mathematics in the Eastern Africa region

A minisymposium of this subject matter was organized at ECMI2021. A longer article by the 6 speakers is being prepared, this is an introduction and extended abstract.

There are good reasons for increasing collaboration between ECMI and Africa. Apart from a few locations industrial mathematics in Africa is rare and sporadic but the interest is growing. African participants have attended ECMI conferences in London, Madrid, Santiago de Compostela and Budapest. There has been a few Modelling weeks (Dar es Salaam, Kigali). Study Group meetings have taken place in South Africa.

There has been a number of international development and capacity building projects with an aim to strengthen research and higher education in developing countries. The Minisymposium described the pioneering role of long-term development and capacity building efforts in mathematics in Africa by The International Science Program (ISP) based at Uppsala University, Sweden and The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). Another area, only briefly mentioned in this connection is the capacity building projects coordinated by Lappeenranta University of Technology, funded by Finnish Foreign Ministry titled East-Africa Techomathematics I-IV (2007-2015) and Mathematics Education and Working Life Relevance in East Africa (2015-2017). LUT has collaborated with LiU over the years in the Sida project.

Challenging problems of Eastern Africa persist: infrastructure, food production and agricultural practices, logistic chains, public health and sanitation, environmental hazards, energy scarcity. There is shortage in technological development and training of skilled workforce and science and technology-based professions. Mathematics education and research culture could have an impact. Africa benefits from connections to the broader mathematics community. There is obvious need for closer communication with the Applied and Industrial mathematics community. This article reports about cooperation between Eastern Africa and some Nordic organizations. The focus being the Swedish ISP and Sida operations. The talks in the Minisymposium covered topics

Leif Abrahamsson: ISP program is capacity building, support to research groups and networks in natural sciences in the least developed countries.

Bengt-Ove Turesson: Sida bilateral research programmes, capacity building aiming at sustainable partnerships.

John Mango: East African Centre for Mathematical Research (EACMaR), launch and mission.

Matti Heilio: Sida-funded PhD school at Makerere University

Godwin Kakuba: Example of continued post-doc collaboration at LiU: Arterial blood circulation modelled as a binary bifurcation tree.

Denis Ndanguza: Example of a research challenge, deep-water methane extraction at Lake Kivu, Rwanda.

A prevailing problem in African mathematics is weak interaction with external world, industry, business etc. Enrolment in mathematics is low. Students do not see the use of mathematics on graduation. The market does not understand the employability of mathematics graduates due to the lack of linkages with external world and role models. Mathematics education needs an upgrade and novel model of pedagogy, in order to increase the impact, connection to real-world applications in applied sciences, engineering, agriculture to public health, traffic and logistics.

There is obvious possibility and demand for increased collaboration between ECMI and Eastern Africa. EACMaR’s objectives include also applied and industrial mathematics and this would be a natural counterpart. EACMaR intends to contribute to an increase in the use of Mathematics in multidisciplinary research projects at universities and in the private and public sectors in the region. One of the objectives is to establish Study Groups meeting in the East African region in near future.

A longer report authored by Matti Heilio, John Mango, Leif Abrahamsson, Bengt-Ove Turesson, Godwin Kakuba and Denis Ndanguza is available on demand.