Africa may currently trail the rest of the world in terms of scientific output, but change is underway thanks to a surge in research and development spending in countries like Ethiopia, Kenya and Mali. Also promising? Last month’s Next Einstein Forum in Rwanda, which brought together many of Africa’s best and brightest scientists. Here’s a closer look at the initiative, as recently reported by The Herald.

Highlighting the Research

Touted as “the largest-ever gathering of scientists on the continent,” the Next Einstein Forum aims to encourage the cultivation of young researchers. Initiated in 2013, the event sponsors 19 science fellows from all over the continent. It also sponsors Africa Science Week at schools in 30 countries as well as the quarterly, peer-reviewed journal, Scientific African.

A spin-off of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, the Next Einstein Forum provides scholarships for master’s students in mathematics in Cameroon, Ghana, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania. To date since 2003, more than 1,500 students from 43 African nations have participated in the program.

Aspiring Toward the Light

In opening the even, Rwandan President Paul Kagame declared, “Knowledge economies are prosperous economies. Today, more than ever before, adequate math and science proficiency is a prerequisite for a national to attain high-income status and the gains in health and well-being that go along with it.”

Kagame also spoke to the need to close the gender gap in science, a position echoed by professor and Next Einstein Forum attendee Eliane Ubalijoro. “The movie ‘Black Panther’ gives positive role models of African women in science. We are creating Wakanda right here,” she said.

All of this adds up to new hope for Africa. Said Nigerian chemistry professor Peter Ngene, who presented his plans for efficiently storing solar energy in hydrogen batteries via nanotechnology at theforum, “We can go from a dark continent to a bright continent.”