Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the OAU/AU
The African Union Commission launched, the prestigious African Union Scientific Award Programme, now named the Kwame Nkrumah Scientific Award, on the 9th of September, 2008. This decision has not only given Africa the opportunity to honour the memory of the Great Pan Africanist and first President of the Republic of Ghana, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, but also reflects the critical role of science and technology in the socio economic development and integration of Africa. The programme is implemented at national level for young researchers, at the regional level for women scientists, and at the continental level open to all scientists.
The 2013 edition of the Kwame Nkrumah Scientific Awards ceremony, which coincided with the 50th Anniversary celebrations of the Organization of Africa Unity (OAU), marked a special occasion highlighting the Commission’s efforts to maintain science and technology on top of Africa’s development, cooperation and political agenda. Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance, which is the theme of the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the OAU, is also a great testament to the sacrifices made by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, an affluent 20th century advocate of Pan-Africanism, and a founding member of the OAU.
African Citizens must ensure that nations are capable of providing appropriate responses that adequately address development challenges. Through the Act establishing the African Union, the Commission has remained steadfast and committed to ensure that science and technology contributes to Africa’s development goals. The Commission’s Department of Human Resources, Science and Technology, established an ambitious and strategic programme aimed at harnessing science and technology for Africa’s socio-economic development. Science must contribute to the wellbeing and improve the quality of life for African citizens. Africa must continue to grow and sustain its critical mass of scientists, invest in science and technology, and promote intra-Africa and international cooperation to tackle common problems.
The objective of the programme is to give out scientific awards to top African scientists for their scientific achievements and valuable discoveries and findings. The Continental level award is the highest award granted by the programme.
This year’s awards ceremony took place on Sunday 26th May, during the 21st Session of the AU Assembly of Heads of States and Governments, at the AU headquarters, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The Kwame Nkrumah Scientific Awards 2013 were presented on behalf of the assembly by Hailemariam Desalegn, Prime Minister of Ethiopia and Chairperson of the African Union, to Prof. Nabil A. Ibrahim from Egypt, the recipient of the Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation Award and to Prof. Michael John Wingfield from South Africa, recipient of the Life and Earth Sciences Award.
Michael Wingfield, Ph.D. has conducted research on tree pests and pathogens especially concerning their global movement for more than thirty years. His highly cited research in this field, conducted in many different countries of the world but with a clear focus on Africa, has led to the discovery of some of the most important pathogens of trees grown commercially in plantations. It has also elucidated elements of the biology and global movement of many of the most important pests and pathogens of trees, substantially contributing to new management options and solutions that have reduced losses to industry. Based on his research reputation, he has been a long term advisor of many major forestry corporations in South Africa and globally.
Amongst his most important contributions to forestry has been the role that he has played as an advisor to more than 60 Ph.D. and an equal number of M.Sc. students, many of whom now hold very senior positions worldwide. In this regard, he has been heavily involved in providing education opportunities for African students, capturing his deep commitment to research and education on the African continent.
“A key issue in developing science and technology is clearly based in education. And here I refer not only education at the tertiary level, but at every level from grade school and upwards. Africa does so poorly in education and although there are surely exceptions, greatness is not the rule,” he noted in his acceptance speech.
He also urged Africa to commit to build the continent’s capacities. “We call upon the leaders of Africa, to join forces and to seriously commit to building capacity in science and technology”. He said what is needed is sustained support over a long period. “A key issue in developing science and technology is clearly education, not only education at the tertiary level but at every level from grade school and upwards”.
Mike Wingfield has published widely on the topic of tree health in more than 600 research papers, five books, and he has presented many invited plenary addresses and other public lectures globally.
Recipient of the Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation Award Prof. Nabil A. Ibrahim has published over 225 scientific papers in well- known international journals dealing with textile chemistry and chemical technology, textile auxiliaries, pollution prevention and cleaner production in textile industry, functional finishes of cellulose-based textiles using nanotechnology, bio-technology and/or plasma technology. He has implemented more than 45 industrial projects and supervised over 60 MSc and PhD theses.
He was awarded the NRC Prize in Chemistry, for Scientific Contribution and Distinction in Chemistry and its Applications in 1996, Professor Dr M.K. Tolba’s Environmental Prize in 1998 for ‘The Best Applied Research for Protection of Air, Water and/or Soil’, and State Prize of Distinction for Advanced Technological Science in 2004 among many more.
Former AUC Chairperson Jean Ping was also awarded a medal and certificate of appreciation in recognition of his distinguished achievements and excellent contribution to the African Union on the same day.
The African Union had an opportunity to acknowledge his service to the African Continent at its 21st summit, held from 19-27 May. Like all the leaders of the African continent, during his term of office, Dr Ping had a responsibility to realize the dream set out by the continent’s forefathers of independence years ago, that of a politically and economically united continent .
Dr. Ping believes that the “AU vision is one of a common future, that will ensure the economic well-being, improvement in the quality of life, freedoms, social justice and peace and security for the people of African continent,” and “Unity in Africa has a deep historical resonance and it was the goal of the fathers of independence and has remained the basic aspiration of African citizens across the continent.
Department of Human Resources,
Science and Technology, African Union Commission