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Home African CEOs Interviews Visionaries 5 Brilliant African Scientists You Probably Don’t Know 
Visionaries - May 10, 2022

5 Brilliant African Scientists You Probably Don’t Know 

The voices of people who colonised Africa have long been used to tell its story. This narrative history is being rewritten by a new generation of brilliant African scientists who are placing the continent on the cutting edge of innovation.

Looking conventional history, it would seem Africa made no significant contributions in science.

However, two-thirds of the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope is located in Africa, which will establish a new network of smaller radio telescopes across the continent to unravel early cosmos mysteries. 

Africa also hosts programs like South Africa’s Maternal and Infant Health Care Strategies Unit, which aims to reduce maternal fatalities, a problem that even affluent countries like the United States face.

Here are 5 brilliant African scientists you should know. 

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1. Thierry Zomahoun

Thierry Zomahoun is the Executive Director of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), Africa’s first and largest pan-African network of mathematical sciences teaching institutes. 

Zomahoun has spent the last 22 years of his career working in international development and consulting, primarily on innovative and scientific educational programs. 

He oversaw the expansion of the AIMS Next Einstein Initiative from one to six centers of excellence across Africa, with the goal of harnessing the potential of mathematics for Africa’s development in academics, research, education, and industry. 

Zomahoun is a development strategist, management specialist, and thought-leader in innovative and strategic education projects. He is regarded as an education innovator and scientific entrepreneur by policymakers, academic and research scientists, and development influencers.

He is also the chairman and founder of the Next Einstein Forum (NEF), a leading global science conference that is the first of its kind to be held on African territory. 

He formed the NEF in order to create a vibrant community of young scientists across Africa, to highlight Africa’s scientific achievements, and to develop a pan-African platform that involves African scientists, pushing the continent to the forefront of science. 

This is to bridge the gap between science, research, industry, and innovation, Thierry founded the AIMS Industry Initiative and African Solutions in 2012.

2. Wilfred Ndifon

Wilfred Ndifon was born in the Cameroonian town of Buea. He had a significant interest in tackling health-related problems at a young age and studied medicine in the United States on a scholarship. 

Ndifon gained an awareness for the relevance of mathematics in solving the problems he was interested in solving while he was there.

He opted to pursue additional studies in mathematics applications and enrolled in a PhD program in biological dynamics at Princeton, where he received intensive instruction at the intersection of mathematics, physics, and biology.

Ndifon’s study focuses on the immune system, which is a complex collection of cells, tissues, and organs that defends us from disease. The immune system, according to its job description, is mostly useful, although it can malfunction and cause harm. 

Understanding the mechanisms that govern the immune system’s functioning is crucial for improving its ability to protect us from infections for example, by producing vaccinations and restoring it when it malfunctions. 

The development of technology for predicting immunological predisposition to specific diseases so that they might be prevented before symptoms show is one of the applications now being investigated.

Ndifon is experienced in establishing technology for designing vaccinations and monitoring certain molecular sensors (called T-cell receptors) that aid in disease protection. 

His prior research findings have practical relevance for resolving health-related issues in Africa, particularly in the area of vaccine creation. 

These findings include the separate discovery (in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States) of an influenza viral organising principle that protects the virus from immune system neutralisation and provides a new technique to create better vaccines. 

It also offers a fresh solution to a 70-year-old immunological issue dubbed original antigenic sin, which has ramifications for vaccine development, which was published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface. 

He recently served as an adviser to the World Health Organization’s Immunization and Vaccines Implementation Research Advisory Committee, drawing on his research background.

3. Noble Banadda 

Noble Banadda is a professor and the chair of Makerere University’s Department of Agricultural and BioSystems Engineering in Uganda.

Banadda was promoted to full professor in August 2012, at the age of 37, becoming the first and only full professor in the department of Agricultural and BioSystems Engineering. 

He was awarded the Cochran Fellowship in 2007 to pursue postdoctoral research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Department of Chemical Engineering, USA.

In 2013 He became the youngest fellow of the Uganda National Academy of Sciences, the only person in Uganda to qualify for both the young and senior academy, a fellow of the Global Young Academy, and one of only seven Africans to qualify for the prestigious Next Einstein Fellowship 2015. 

He is also a Uganda National Academy of Sciences fellow. Noble was recognised as a young scientist at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of New Champions in Tianjin, People’s Republic of China, in September 2014. He is now the Uganda Young Academy Chapter’s interim president.

He has taught in universities in Africa, Europe, and the United States as a visiting professor. 

Noble has experience designing and operating wastewater activated sludge systems, anaerobic digestion of wastewaters and sludges, and soil bioremediation processes. 

He’s also worked on numerous parts of bioprocess mathematical modeling, food processing engineering, and biosystems. According to Google Scholar rankings in waste management research, Noble is placed 35th globally and 2nd in Africa.

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