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TWAS Newsletter
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Murenzi honoured in South Africa

Murenzi honoured in South Africa

Accepting an honourary doctorate degree at the University of Johannesburg, TWAS Executive Director Romain Murenzi spoke of the central importance of creating a new generation of African PhD researchers.

TWAS Executive Director Romain Murenzi was awarded an honourary PhD from the University of Johannesburg for his contributions to science and science education "for the benefit of society". The Honoris Causa degree in engineering was presented 24 April during a graduation ceremony for students in the University's Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment.

Murenzi's research as a mathematician and physicist has focused on multidimensional continuous wavelet transforms, with applications in image processing and other areas. In addition, he has served as minister of education and science in his home country of Rwanda, as well as in high-level policy positions at UNESCO and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Daniel Mashao, executive dean of engineering at the University of Johannesburg, praised Murenzi's significant contributions. "Professor Murenzi has contributed to the engineering field and in particular in his work on Cauchy wavelets," Mashao said. "He is an author of several papers in scientific journals, including co-authoring a textbook on two-dimensional wavelets. He has served society in various portfolios and has proved his true passion for the value of education and in transforming lives for the benefit of society.''

During his visit to South Africa, also met with Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, the South African Minister of Science and Technology, and spoke at the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study.

At the graduation ceremony, Murenzi's address was the closing talk. He praised the students' academic accomplishments and reminded them of the importance of their future studies and work.

See the full text of Romain Murenzi's speech, "What key developments are likely to transform society in the next decade?"

"Our continent has an acute shortage of scientists," he explained. "It is said that Africa will need more than one million scientists and engineers in the next decades. The skills and knowledge you have acquired in the various fields of engineering – including Mining Engineering, Chemical Engineering, and Industrial Engineering –  are in critical need.

"It is no exaggeration to say that the future of Africa depends on you."

Murenzi's address explored a provocative question: What will drive societal transformation in the next decade?

"There's no doubt that if we could create a million new scientists for Africa in the next decade, or even two decades, that could have a very positive impact," he said. "Not only do these PhD scientists do research, but they teach and serve as mentors. They establish businesses, they provide advice to government or enter public service. They become important links in regional and international networks."

But to develop that corps of African scientists and engineers, Murenzi said, a powerful innovation ecosystem is the essential agent of transformation. The innovation ecosystem requires sustained work in a number of critical areas: education at every level, the inclusion of women, effective policy, the establishment of science and engineering academies, the development of technology and robust international cooperation.

"If we can do this," he concluded, "even the poorest nation can begin to emerge as China, India, Brazil, South Africa and others have emerged in recent years."

Edward W. Lempinen