Thursday, 11 August 2016

Want to Shape the Future? Take the Global Shapers Annual Survey 2016

Challenges faced by young people across the world are both local and global in nature. In my country, Ghana, some of the key issues consistently raised through discussions on online and offline youth platforms such as BarCamp include unemployment, corruption, and frequent power cuts (dubbed ‘dumsor’ in local parlance). Less obvious but equally pressing problems include climate change, gender inequality, and limited access to higher education. These challenges are often interlinked and have far-reaching impacts. Therefore, they need to be properly analysed to pave way for the design of appropriate solutions to address them. The youth voice cannot be missing in the discourse as they represent a significant proportion of global population and offer new ideas and visions on the way forward.

For example, frequent power cuts have been frustrating citizens and hampering national development in Ghana for the better part of the last decade-and-half. Everyone has been affected in one way or the other - from intrepid students working hard on school assignments in the evenings to start-up founders or corporate bosses looking to maximise industrial productivity. For young people, this situation has consequences for number of new jobs created in a given period. Dumsor has become a noxious scourge on national life, and many have spoken strongly on government’s inability to solve the problem on civic platforms. Interestingly, it is not just a Ghanaian problem but a regional one. Many countries throughout Africa, including South Africa and Nigeria, face frequent power cuts unlike countries of the global North. 

The Global Shapers Community, in ensuring that young people contribute to shaping the world, is collecting youth voices through its second Annual Survey. The survey gives a global overview of young people’s perspectives on the state of the world, and how they would like to contribute to improving it. It is open it to all young people between 18 and 35 years everywhere in the world. By taking this survey, you would be helping to compose a more accurate picture of priority issues for young people at global, regional, and national levels. Global Shapers would be creating and sharing a report based on the survey to government, business, and third sector leaders the world over. Global youth surveys like the Global Shapers Survey could be complemented by local studies looking at specific contextual issues into more detail. 

Global and local pictures of the youth experience will go a long way to inform relevant interventions to deliver results for youth. This would require cross-sector collaborations. A multi-faceted approach, looking at empowering young researchers and innovators with relevant skills in renewable energy for example, could help untangle the challenges in educational opportunities, energy access, and job security earlier outlined. However, any specific programme developed would rely on insights from sources such as the Global Shapers Annual Survey. By sparing 10 to 15 minutes of your time to take the Global Shapers Annual Survey 2016, you would be contributing to promoting the welfare of young people in your community, country, region, and the world at large. Join me in this important journey of change.

Monday, 21 March 2016

NEF Ambassadors Share on Expectations and Experiences - #NEF2016

The Next Einstein Forum, hosted by Senegal in Dakar, brought together various stakeholders including presidents, scientists,technologists, policymakers, entrepreneurs and activists to deliberate on the future of African science and how it can be applied to benefit society. During the global gathering held from 8th to 10th March, some NEF ambassadors took time to share on their expectations and experiences. Find out more in the video below.


Also, fellow ambassador Yassine Harzallah from Tunisia made a brilliant video that captured how the ambassadors interacted with the event. His video evoked the sense of friendship, cooperation, happiness and positivity that pervaded the NEF ambience. 




We look forward to support the work of NEF in order to raise the profile of African science and encourage more young Africans to enter into the sciences. We are all keen to work with the fellows, volunteers, and mentors within the NEF network, as well as colleagues in our own countries and all over the world, to realise the above objectives.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

NEF Chronicles: Arrival in Dakar, Senegal

Last time, I blogged about the Next Einstein Forum and it's drive to promote STEM in Africa. One of the most important aspects of the initiative is the Ambassador programme, which I happen to be part of. Yesterday, I arrived in Dakar, the capital of Senegal yesterday, to begin my NEF experience. The main event, dubbed Global Gathering, is slated for 8th to 10th March 2016. This blog summarises my NEF experience so far.

Journey to Dakar
I got to Kotoka International Airport in Accra at around 8:40 am, checked in and took a one hour flight to Abidjan. From Abidjan I transferred to another flight to Dakar which lasted 2 hours 45 minutes. I was so amazed by the duration of the journey; it made me realise that West Africa was much bigger than I imagined. Immigration and security procedures at all airports were pretty smooth and efficient. NEF volunteers were on hand to wish all arrivals a warm welcome to Senegal, promising us a time of our lives. We were then transported to our hotels by bus. In the bus to the hotel I met my room mate from Guinea Bissau. Our interactions revealed why we were paired together: we have international development, education, and civic participation in common. Throughout the ride I couldn't help but notice how Dakar was different from Ghana's capital Accra: there was little traffic, hardly any street vendors, cleaner streets, and the buildings had this stylistic essence.

Orientation/briefing with NEF
After checking in to the hotel and getting acquainted with our room, we stepped out to explore our surroundings. In the hotel lobby, we met the NEF Ambassador from Gambia who is also one of the cluster leaders. He used his Wolof skills to help navigate our way into town to get some food. Back from our outing, we had a brief meeting with NEF content lead Janny who oriented us on activities lined up for ambassadors and provided us with all we need for a successful stay in Senegal. I had a taste of Senegalese bissap a.k.a sobolo and it was good!
Day 1 in Senegal ended really well. I already like the city of Dakar. The vibe around the NEF is infectious, and I'm bracing myself for an experience of a lifetime. On y vas!

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Promoting African Science Through the Next Einstein Forum - #NEF2016

I am delighted to be named among the first cohort of Next Einstein Forum Science Ambassadors. According to NEF.org, "the Next Einstein Forum (NEF) is a platform that brings together leading thinkers in science, policy, industry and civil society in Africa to leverage science to solve global challenges." Believing that the next Einstein will be African, NEF works to make Africa a global hub for science and technology. It is an initiative of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) and the Robert Bosch Stiftung.
The Ambassadors scheme aims "to build a targeted team of 54 young Ambassadors, one from each African country, to participate in the NEF Global Gathering 2016, champion African science, technology, engineering and mathematics [STEM] globally and become part of the growing NEF community."
 As a NEF Ambassador, I would among other things:
  1. Represent Ghana at the NEF Global Gathering event in Dakar, Senegal, the first of its kind in Africa. We would celebrate African science, including the work of the elite NEF Fellows, and showcase how to apply scientific knowledge to sustainable development in Africa. 
  2. Promote Ghanaian STEM stories, research, and innovations to the global audience. For example, my inaugural post on NEF.org highlighted pressing environmental issues in Ghana, and how various actors are working to resolve the challenges. In the future, I plan to share more on social innovation projects and research of the STEM community in Ghana
  3. Promote the Next Einstein Forum's work in Ghana and contribute to the growth of an all-inclusive community for science, technology, and development in Africa. I plan to share NEF news with my online networks, such as Global Lab Ghana, join STEM projects, and participate in relevant events and conferences here in Ghana
The NEF fellows embody African scientific excellence, inspiring the next generation of African scientists
Check out some of the ideas I shared during the application round in the YouTube video below:



In addition to the above, my hope is to network effectively with colleague ambassadors, the NEF Fellows, and other participants, creating opportunities for future collaborations. I am truly excited to be part of this pan-African initiative. Find out more about the awesome current NEF Ambassadors here and here.

What issues would you suggest to be on top of NEF's agenda? Are there any researchers or innovators whose work excite you that you think could use some visibility? I would be keen to hear your ideas as to how best to represent Ghana and Africa to the global audience. Follow the conversation via @NextEinsteinFor and @gamelmag on Twitter. Also get the latest updates via #NEF2016 and #AfricasEinsteins on social media.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Science BarCamp Ghana Examines Scientific Solutions for Economic Progress


Science BarCamp logo
Scientific developments in a country or society cannot proceed without a nurturing community, a collection of critical thinkers and willing actors. These people are usually buoyed by curiosity, to understand the underlying mechanisms of natural phenomena, and creativity, to devise solutions to day-to-day challenges humanity faces. Ghana’s first Science BarCamp, held last Saturday 9th January, witnessed a collection of such passionate thinker-doers at the National ICT and Science Resource Centre, Accra. The programme was put together by GhScientific, in partnership with GhanaThink Foundation, and supported by Novan Education and Training. The theme, “scientific solutions for economic progress”, could not be timelier, with the country facing challenges in energy, youth employment, sanitation, and public services. “What’s a barcamp?” you may ask. A barcarmp is a participatory ‘unconference’ where the programme and content are user-generated. Unlike your typical conference, everyone is encouraged to be a speaker and a member of the audience at the same time. Featuring various interactive formats, the programme seeks to engage all participants to learn and share in an open environment. GhanaThink has been spearheading barcamps, as a youth social changemaking movement, in Ghana since 2008. Science BarCamp remixed GhanaThink’s barcamp format, including science demo sessions, and an engaging panel discussion focused on issues affecting science in Ghana. The event brought together established scientists, professionals, young researchers, students, and general science enthusiasts. I was delighted to be the MC for the day.

Science mentors, L to R: Cordie, Gloria, Delali, Sam B, and Sam AF, introduce themselves. Credit: GhScientific 
After a round of self-introductions, the programme started with a panel discussion moderated by Larisa Bowen-Dodoo of Servled Africa. The discussants were Dr Kwamena Sagoe (Ghana Science Association), Dr Elsie Effah Kaufmann (University of Ghana), Mr Anis Haffar (GATE Institute), and Dr Patrick Arthur (University of Ghana). The discussion explored various facets of the theme, addressing issues such as quality of science education, motivation for science careers, and how to make science more marketable in Ghana. Their insights were complimented by contributions from a well-engaged audience. A very interesting discussion point was the role of the educational system (including teachers) in sustaining student’s interest in science. While many held that it was incumbent on schools to provide the needed stimulation and motivation, a few others were of the view that science, being a difficult field of endeavour, requires students’ own initiative and dogged determination to overcome inevitable challenges, irrespective of the environment. Various viewpoints covered the environment-initiative spectrum.

Dr Elsie Effah Kaufmann strongly advocated for student initiative as a key ingredient in learning science
Next, attendees had one-on-one mentoring sessions with invited scientists and industry professionals. The mentors were Dr Gloria Ivy Mensah (Women in Biomedicine Africa), Kobby Blay (GhanaHealthNest), Alain Gbeasor (Gesus Group), Jorge Appiah (Creativity Group), Delali Otchi (Hydra Group), Sam Bhattacharyya (dot Learn), Tunde Alawode (dot Learn), Dr Patrick Arthur (Department of Biochemistry, University of Ghana), Cordie Aziz (Environment360), and Samuel Amoako-Frimpong (University of Energy and Natural Resources). The mentors shared perspectives on their areas of expertise including included biomedical research, health communication, industrial chemicals, education, engineering, technology, and environmental sustainability. They gave guidelines on how to proceed on a science career path and practicalising scientific ideas. The group then broke for lunch during which there was a bit of unstructured mingling.

After lunch, Dr Thomas Tagoe, co-founder of GhScientific, led demos and fun games, which were very exciting. Samuel Amoako-Frimpong presented on virtual reality and how it can be applied in education. We also enjoyed #PipetteWars, a game testing the speed and accuracy of players to fill a white tile with water. Dr Arthur ultimately showed his pipetting prowess honed by many hours in biochemistry labs.

Dr Arthur faces off with Freda during finals of #PipetteWars
Four breakout sessions were organised to explore issues of interest to the participants. The areas selected were inspired by the contributions made during the panel discussion. The topics discussed were:
  • Moving from scientific ideas to large-scale solutions, led by Freda Yawson (Innovate Ghana)
  • Making science education interesting and appealing ,led by Saddiq Mohammed (Ghana Association of Science Teachers)
  • Engaging communities with science, led by Billy James Dega (National Society for Black Engineers)
  • Applications of virtual reality, led by Samuel Amoako-Frimpong (UENR)
Volunteers from each session summarised their discussion points for the plenary. As part of the closing remarks, the organisers mentioned various STEM projects and groups participants could engage with going forward.

Breakout sessions ongoing at SciBarCamp
Science BarCamp created a rare networking opportunity for both young scientists and their older counterparts. The event was highly interactive and all—round participation was fantastic. Science BarCamp created an intimate atmosphere for kindred spirits to discuss science, its possibilities, and the way forward for Ghana. I found conversations around learning, the environment, biotechnology, science business, and technology invigorating. This type of engagement is often missing in Ghana. Therefore GhScientific and partners must be applauded for their bold efforts in making science mainstream. There are already calls for Science BarCamp to be taken to other regions of Ghana. It would take the support of everyone who cares about Ghana’s future to make this possible.

Photo moment with cross-section of participants after programme. Credit GhScientific
What to know more about Science BarCamp? Check out this collection of photos on ghscientific.com, and follow #SciCampGH and #SciBarCamp across social media.