ORGANIZATION AND CURRENT ACTIVITIES

The African Mathematics Millennium Science Initiative (AMMSI) is an international non-governmental organization with its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. It operates as a distributed network of mathematics research, training and promotion, throughout Africa, with regional offices located in Botswana, Burkina Faso, The Republic of the Congo, Morocco, Nigeria,Republic of the Congoand Tanzania.

AMMSI is currently engaged in the following activities, among others:·

  • The AMMSI-Phillip Griffiths Prize –  awarded annually, starting in 2016, to African mathematicians, living in Africa, who have made outstanding contribution to mathematics, application of mathematics or promotion of mathematics, as evidenced by research and its impact.
  • Postgraduate Scholarships – awards of partial scholarships, not exceeding USD 1,000 to support Masters and Doctoral studies in mathematics and its applications.
  • LMS-AMMSI Conference Grants to Postgraduates – awards not exceeding GBP 2,000 to enable groups of postgraduate students to travel to conferences.
  • AMMSI Conference Grants to Staff – awards not exceeding  USD 1,000 to enable groups of staff members attend conferences in mathematics and its applications

MISSION

To nurture the next generation of African mathematicians and mathematical leadership

GOALS OF AMMSI

1. To support research in mathematics and its applications (Research).
2. To strengthen the teaching and learning of mathematics and its applications (Training and Education).
3. To enhance capacity in mathematics through linkages and networks (Linkages and Networking).
4. To raise general awareness in mathematics (Outreach and Public Education).
5. To enhance the use of ICT in the teaching and learning of mathematics (ICT).

ORIGINAL PLANNED ACTIVITIES

In order to fulfill its goals, AMMSI has put In place plans to undertake the activities described in the following sub-sections.

Research

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. This will be done through various activities, for instance:

  • Support of basic and applied research with special emphasis given to the role of mathematics in interdisciplinary projects with other sciences.
  • Award of research scientist fellowships to enable staff conduct research at other institutions while on leave from their home universities.

Support for the planning and design of research projects and for African mathematicians to participate in international research programmes that involve the application of mathematics.

Training and Education

In order to have a strong research and training culture, a “critical mass” of graduate students is required at universities. This critical mass is essential to

  1. Create a dynamic and interactive learning environment for students.
  2. Add energy and youthful perspective to faculty research.
  3. Assist in teaching undergraduates.

In most sub-Saharan African countries, such critical mass is not available in mathematics programmes. Training also needs to involve university lecturers, as they often want to deepen their understanding of mathematics and upgrade their skills to enhance professional abilities. The AMMSI therefore proposes to undertake a number of activities in order to strengthen training and education in mathematics and its applications in African universities, for instance:

  • Award of postgraduate scholarships for MSc and PhD training;
  • Award of visiting scientist fellowships to enable staff from other institutions, locally and abroad, to participate in postgraduate training of students;
  • Promotion of the teaching of postgraduate mathematics courses at regional, instead of institutional, levels in order to increase postgraduate class sizes and make effective use of the limited expertise and teaching capacity;
  • Support for staff to make presentations at professional meetings; Provide grants to produce or obtain textbooks, journals, and other teaching materials.

Linkages and 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, through several mechanisms, for example:

  • Facilitating the organization of professional meetings to enable African mathematicians have outlet or means of gaining recognition among their peers and broadening their professional network;
  • Support for national and regional mathematics organizations in Africa that are dormant because of lack of support by the governments and the private sector;

Supporting the assemblage and maintenance of a database on African mathematicians, including their areas of interest and major contributions.

Outreach and Public Education

Members of the general public commonly have little understanding of the pervasive importance of mathematics to everyday life and to the performance of scientific research. Mathematicians can do much to educate the public about the power and interest of their field, which in turn would promote broader support for the discipline. Consequently, the AMMSI will, for instance:

  • Initiate public lectures and exhibitions that provide non-technical expositions of mathematics and its applications;
  • Support the participation of students in mathematics Olympiads at the national, regional and international levels as an important way for the African students to develop interest in mathematics;
  • Promote the use of various channels by which mathematicians can communicate with non-mathematicians, such as television, video cassettes, CD-ROMs, and internet sites;
  • Promote the establishment of linkages between academic researchers and private industry;
  • Initiate an annual award of AMMSI Prizes for excellence in research and distinguished contribution to mathematics and its applications.

Start a programme called The African Woman in Mathematics that will involve workshops, lectures and other activities specifically designed to stimulate the interest of female students in schools and universities across Africa, in mathematics and its applications.

Information and Communications Technology (ICT)

Information and communications technology, which has become essential to modern nations and scientists, is still weak in many parts of Africa and most institutions therein lack one or more of the following essential ingredients for ICT needed to support modern academic science. The AMMSI will therefore support ICT for research and education in universities and schools.

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.