We talked with Edward Chikuni, General Chair of the EAI International Conference on Research Innovation and Development for Africa, ACRID 2017, and a Professor in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Zimbabwe, which will take place in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe on June 20-21. His education and work experience has extended to many countries from Accra to Johannesburg, from Madison Wisconsin to Manchester and from Zurich to Hanghzou, China. At ACRID 2017 the discussions and deliberations will be on real-world issues which can impact the present millions of Africa’s populations and its future generations.
Joining him, as the General Co-Chair is Dr Joseph Mutale who is an Associate Professor in Electrical Energy and Power Systems at the University of Manchester in the UK. He has helped organise several conferences and is very active in Europe and Africa providing a bridge between the African Diaspora and Africa researchers.
Since this will be the first edition of the ACRID conference, could you introduce its central topic why it is important? What is this event’s vision?
ACRID is an International Multidiscipline Conference that covers Science, Technology, Engineering Industry and Innovation. Its vision is to bring together academics, researchers and industrialist from the North and South and in fact from everywhere around the world so that the sharing of ideas can occur in wonderful settings. The first Edition of ACRID will be in Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Today Africa is posting growth rates that surpass Europe and North America, its Renewable Energy Resources are enormous, the Telecommunication industry is growing and there is continued hunger for services. ACRID has been deliberately conceptualized as a multidiscipline conference because in typical African Problems require multidisciplinary approach.
What have been the most recent and promising developments in research and innovation for Africa? Are there any trends in terms of what methods or technologies are being used?
There are several most promising developments in research and innovation developed in Africa and for Africa. Africa boasts a number of Nobel Prize Winners and eminent scientists such as Cheick Modibo Diarra of Mali who is a scientist at NASA for space programs such as Pathfinder and Galileo, South African Mark Shuttleworth, and Internet Security expert and founder of the most widely used version of the Linux operating System, Ubuntu. Unfortunately, many of Africa’s top scientists, technologists and entrepreneurs are working from outside the continent. Recently, however, we see many coming back to “give back” and to contribute to their countries’ development. This is a positive trend. The ACRID conference will provide opportunities for all those from the North and from the South that share a common vision of cooperation and mutual development of the continent. A more prosperous Africa free from conflict will propel it to hither to unimagined heights.
What are the biggest challenges that this region is facing? How could the international community help overcome these problems?
The greatest challenge facing Africa is population growth (projected to double to two billion by 2050) and its consequent impact on provision of essential services such as clean water, sustainable energy and shelter, education and adequate nutrition and health care. Reduction and ultimately elimination of poverty therefore remains and must remain a key focus for African Governments. There are many issues that have contributed to the current state of Africa including unbalanced international trading arrangements, lack of productivity within African economies and of course poor Governance. The solution to these challenges must therefore be multi-pronged. Nevertheless, the central solution lies in education generally and engineering education and research in particular. Improvements in Energy, Communications, Manufacturing and Agriculture Infrastructure are truly needed. The International Community can help overcome these problems by coming in as partners and catalysts for development. Africans themselves realise that the days of open ended aid programmes are gone. The promotion of joint research among Africans and the rest of the world will go a long way towards resolving and overcoming these problems. While in the developed world access to the Internet is almost free, in most of Africa there is either no access and whatever access is there is slow and costly and beyond the means of ordinary users.
What are your expectations for ACRID 2017?
I am very optimistic about ACRID 2017. I am hoping for very good participations and a large number of delegates. I am hoping for many papers from all over Africa, from Managers and Engineers in the Mines, Cement Factories, from Hospitals, of course from Universities. I am hoping that policy makers will come in their numbers. To attend, participate in ACRID 2017, one does not actually have to present a paper, participation itself is a very good virtue. I expect too that from among the papers, a Journal of very high standard will be published. We have an reputable, excellent publisher, Springer.