Since the resolution of Rwanda’s civil war and genocide, the East African nation has been ruled by President Paul Kagame in a quasi-authoritarian manner. He has been criticized for his human rights record and oppression of civil dissent, but also praised for his modernization and reform efforts, which have boosted Rwanda’s economy and intellectual growth. At the center of his modernization project is a focus on education, with a prioritization of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In the capital Kigali, the founding of the East African Institute for Fundamental Research (EAIFR) by Nigerian theoretical physicist Omololu Akin-Ojo in 2018 is just one example of the efforts to turn Rwanda into a continental tech hub.
Why It Matters
Omololu Akin-Ojo wants to prevent the brain drain that has seen Africa’s brightest move to educational institutions in Europe and North America. Having studied condensed matter physics at the University of Delaware, he became an assistant professor at Nigeria's African University of Science and Technology. The EAIFR is still quite young, with only a third of its projected graduating class enrolled and half of the academic staff needing to be filled out. Nonetheless, the EAIFR already holds regular workshops and meetings with participation from researchers, scientists, and other academics from all over the world.
Akin-Ojo sat down for an interview with Quanta Magazine’s Thomas Lewton and discussed EAIFR’s current focus on theoretical physics, potential real-world applications, and sub-Saharan Africa’s place among global scientific research.