Mauritius’ First Female President Calls For a Stronger Science-Policy Interface in Africa
The island of Mauritius marked an important milestone in its history when eminent scientist Ammenah Gurib-Fakim was inaugurated as the country’s first female president in June. Dr. Gurib-Fakim holds an honorary doctorate degree from Pierre and Marie Curie University and is an honorary professor of Pretoria’s University of South Africa (UNISA). She has also been recognized by numerous organizations such as UNESCO and the French government for their research on biodiversity.
After completing her PhD in England, Dr. Gurib-Fakim returned to Mauritius to study the island’s plants and their potential medicinal properties. As a result of her research, she became the first female professor at the University of Mauritius, and then the first female dean of its Faculty of Science, serving in this role from 2004 to 2010.
Her appointment has brought a new wave of enthusiasm for African civil society organizations regarding the relationship between science and policy. Considered a non-careeer politician, the new Mauritian President represents not only a new political approach but also a step towards gender equality. Her priorities as President closely reflect on their scientific background. “I want to drive think-tanks on science and technology,” she said. “Sustainable development,” she added, “has everything to do with our identity of being Mauritanian and of being a biodiversity hot spot.”
Another big initiative will be the scientific development of the country and the African continent. On July 21st, she will open a major conference in London organized by the Planet Earth Institute to discuss how to guarantee the scientific independence of Africa. Earlier in 2015, Mauritius announced new plans to develop the island country into a regional knowledge hub for science and technology. Joining other senior African policy-makers, Dr. Gurib-Fakim will call for stronger linkages between industry and scientific development in Africa. As she explains, Mauritius has a strong tradition of investing in scientific research. Going forward, she says, “science and technology and sustainable development will be the key to create wealth and jobs for our young people, both in Mauritius and across the mainland African continent.”
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