University of Rwanda scientists investigate how digital tools could help families monitor indoor air pollution

Air pollution is a growing challenge for Africa, with the rapid population growth, industrial growth and consumption growth which have greatly contributed to increased levels of pollution.  While a lot of attention has been given to managing outdoor air pollution, indoor air pollution is proving to be the silent killer to many African homes where majority of the families still burn wood and use other biomass to cook and heat their homes. Children and pregnant women are significantly affected. While deaths from indoor air pollution in Africa have declined by about 15% since 1990, the overall number of deaths is still high at over 400,000 as at 2017 according to a report published by UNICEF in 2019. It is therefore imperative to create awareness of the dangers associated with the indoor air pollution exposure to African families.

The University of Rwanda’s Centre of Excellence on Internet of Things (IoT), Embedded Computing Systems with funding from the PASET Regional Scholarship’s competitive grants scheme, in close collaboration with a team from Makerere University is implementing a project to assess the levels of indoor air pollution in rural and urban communities in Rwanda. The project aims to develop an IoT monitoring device that will help families assess the levels of indoor air pollution in their homes and propose mechanisms to help families implement measures to reduce the high levels of indoor air pollution detected to the acceptable levels as guided by the World Health Organization. The tool will also provide general information to create awareness to the families on the causes, dangers, and mitigation measures for indoor air pollution.

This far, the project team has completed the design of the IoT indoor air pollution prototype and produced three of the 60 IoT devices to be developed through this initiative, the tool has been deployed to pilot sites and is able to collect necessary data in the homes and feed to a centralized monitoring system for data processing.

The project is also mentoring five PhD students from the university who have received hands on training on developing the IoT prototype in addition to participating in various short courses on the embedded systems which have exposed them to different technologies used in IoT prototyping. The students are also using new tools for data collection and data visualization. Besides mentoring PhD students, other partners involved in the project have also gained more skills such as backend development for centralized data storage systems. The project will also train the local community on the use of the Indoor IoT monitoring tool for increased uptake.

Students soldering the IoT prototyping device

The whole project concept was made clear through the prototype presentation. I got to learn more about the Arduino platform, Sensors (humidity sensor in particular), and programming behind the GSM module. by Barbara Asingwire, RSIF Scholar, University of Rwanda

I have learned the basics of embedded systems and knowing the keywords that are used. I have seen that there are plenty of opportunities in that field and I expect to chase them as well. I have learned how I can connect humidity sensor and temperature sensor to Arduino, and we programmed them. by Eric Nizeyimana, RSIF Scholar, University of Rwanda

 

RSIF students learning how to design their first IoT Prototype device(s)

The “Real Time Assessment of indoor air pollution in Rwanda rural and urban households” is one of 16 projects currently being funded through the RSIF Research Grants window. The grants are competitively awarded to faculty of RSIF African Host Universities (AHUs), to undertake research that has practical solutions in five priority thematic areas identified by the Partnership for Skills in Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology (PASET). The project is significantly contributing to Rwanda’s National Strategy Framework on Climate Change and Low Carbon Development. Through this strategy, the country has taken a big step towards achieving socio-economic development that is resilient to economic, social and environmental shocks related to population growth, and climate change as well as global visions to attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

 

RSIF-RCU pays a courtesy call on the Hon. Minister of Higher Education & Scientific Research of the Republic of Benin

RSIF delegation

A delegation from the Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund (RSIF) led by the Manager, Dr Moses Osiru, paid a courtesy call on the Honourable Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research of the Republic of Benin, Her Excellency, Professor Eléonore Yayi Ladekan, at the Ministry Headquarters in Cotonou, Benin on Tuesday, 15th March 2022. This took place on the sidelines of the Kick-off meeting and launch of the third-party projects of the European Union (EU) Funded Project titled, “Accelerating Inclusive Green growth through Agri-based Digital Innovation (AGriDI)”. The delegation updated the Minister on progress made in the implementation of the RSIF program and specifically RSIF activities in Benin and discussed further areas of mutual collaboration.

Among the various items discussed were the 21 PhD scholarship beneficiaries from Benin, eight of whom are female scholars. Dr Moses Osiru delivered remarks on behalf of the RSIF delegation, which included Dr. Julius Ecuru, Dr. Jonas Mugabe and Ms. Sakina Mapenzi. The icipe team was accompanied by Professor Achille Assogbadjo and Dr Jules Degila both from the UAC and actively involved in the implementation of AGriDI.  Dr Osiru informed the Minister that Benin, will start hosting RSIF doctoral students from across Africa at the University of Abomey-Calavi in 2022, following a competitive selection by PASET that was concluded in 2021. He also extended an invitation to the Honourable Minister to attend RSIF continental meetings including the planned RSIF Annual conference to be organised in partnership with Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P), in Morocco from 24-26 May 2022 whose focus will be on strengthening doctoral training and resource mobilisation for the program.

Dr Moses Osiru, RSIF-RCU Manager

Dr Jonas Mugabe was introduced to the Minister as the AGriDI Project Manager. Dr. Mugabe provided an overview of the AGriDi project whose project office is based at International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Campus in Cotonou. The project office also serves as the icipe focal point in West-Africa. He thanked the Minister for the support and looked forward to working closely with the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research of Benin.

As a member of PASET-RSIF, Dr Osiru noted that, Benin will be able to leverage other funds by jointly working with other African countries to engage partners and donors, including the private sector. In addition, Beninese institutions will benefit from research and innovation grants to support the strengthening of the research environment in Beninese universities and across the country. This support is leveraged from other donors including the EU financed African, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) Innovation Fund, the Government of South Korea and the World Bank. The Government of Benin is already benefiting from support from the Government of Korea and the EU AGriDI Project to the PASET RSIF initiative.

The Hon Minister on her part, thanked the RSIF delegation for the courtesy call and for the work being done by RSIF. She promised support from the ministry including advocacy for more funding to RSIF.  The Hon Minister conveyed her greetings to the icipe Director General and CEO, Dr. Segenet Kelemu.

Honourable Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research of the Republic of Benin, Her Excellency, Professor Eléonore Yayi Ladekan

Accompanying the Hon Minister were several senior Beninese officials including, The Director of Cabinet and Director of Planning and Prospective of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Benin and Deputy Vice Chancellor of the Université d’Abomey-Calavi and his team including the Directors of the three centres of excellence.

RSIF PhD Scholarship Recipients for Cohort 4 announced

RSIF is pleased to announce the award of 72 scholarships for the 4thRSIF Scholarship call. In response to a call for applications published on 16 August 2022, 1,948 applications were received online by icipe, and upon completion of the selection process, the PASET Executive Board (EB) approved 74 of eligible and qualified applicants; and recommended a further 20 reserve candidates for the award of RSIF PhD Scholarships on 25 February 2022. Of the approved 74 scholarships, 72 candidates have accepted the scholarship award and will join a community of 173 RSIF scholarship recipients undertaking their studies in selected African Host Universities; and will continue to translate scientific knowledge into impactful innovations for Africa.

RSIF offers a unique opportunity for African countries to train doctoral students in high quality PhD programmes in applied sciences, engineering and technology, in selected African universities partnered with international universities.

The scholarship recipients have been notified with exception of those funded by Nigerian Government. Scholarship funding from Nigeria is not yet confirmed and therefore scholarship recipients from Nigeria and/or funded by Nigerian funds should wait confirmation.

View complete list of RSIF Phd Cohort 4 scholarship recipients

AGriDi Project launches third-party projects to stimulate agri-based digital innovation in West-Africa

The kick-off meeting and capacity building workshop for third-party projects for the Accelerating inclusive green growth through agri-based digital innovation in West Africa (AGriDI) project will be physically held at the Université d’Abomey-Calavi in Cotonou, Benin from 14-18 March 2022. This follows an inception meeting that was held in a hybrid format, at icipe in June 2021.  The main objective of this meeting is to build a shared understanding and vision of the AGriDI project and a community of practice in agri-based digital innovations in West Africa.

Collaboration among various actors, including Governments, in the digital eco-system will remain key for the success of agri-food systems.  In this spirit, existing linkages between research and the technology sectors need to be strengthened further to support innovation, technology development. AGriDI projects will strengthen the livelihoods of smallholder farmers through its stakeholder engagement initiatives in supporting the acceleration of a digital revolution through training and community engagement activities.

The importance of digital innovation in agri-business cannot be emphasised enough, this workshop will therefore serve as the official launch of the third-party projects and set the pace for a successful implementation phase” Dr Jonas Muagbe, AGriDI Project Manager

AGriDI is a 4-year intervention that will be implemented in the ECOWAS states in Western Africa region and is expected to lead to; (i) increased uptake of agri-based digital technologies by farmers and SMEs especially women and youth in the region; (ii) strengthened linkages between research communities, industry and policy actors in digital innovations in the region and (iii) a strengthened policy environment for scaling agri-business digital innovations in the region.

AGriDI is jointly implemented by the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology, icipe as the Lead and its partners, the University of Abomey Calavi in Benin, Agropolis Foundation in France and Gearbox Pan African Network in Kenya and is one of the 8 granted projects financed under the ACP Innovation Fund of the European Union.

At the end of the meeting workshop, third-party projects will not only be officially launched, but  their members  will be expected to have a better understanding of the AGriDI project and other third-party projects.

For more information about the workshop, follow @AgridiAfr on twitter.

An Internship at the Regional Scholarship innovation Fund: A student perspective

By Allan Ocholla, Former RSIF Annual Conference Intern

Having an internship at the Regional Scholarship innovation Fund (RSIF), International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) came at a time I was looking for an opportunity that combines my experience in participating in various open science programs and expertise in events management especially in an African setting.

The journey started when I was near completion of my Master’s degree in microbiology at Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya. I was also in my last few months of a fellowship program, and like any other student near completion of their studies, I was stuck in front of a relentless loop of career options and looking for where to put my skills to good use.  While checking LinkedIn groups, I found the opportunity of joining RSIF as a conference intern. I connected so closely with the RSIF mission of increasing and strengthening high quality PhD programs in applied sciences, engineering and technology in Africa. The whole application process, from the time of application, interview and selection took less than month. I remember the day when I received an email that I got the position. I was so excited and immediately checked through my folders and notebooks in preparation for the next four months of co-organizing RSIF virtual pre-conference.

Application process

Typically, vacancies are advertised on the RSIF Website. You can also follow the RSIF official accounts on social media platforms and consider joining their mailing list for updates. The entry requirements may differ from one advertisement to another. For the majority of positions, a Bachelor’s degree or Master’s degree is the minimum requirement.

When applying for an opportunity at RSIF, make sure that your application is well written. You need to highlight both your professional and personal experiences. Mention your academic background and its relation to the position, cite your leadership positions, achievements you feel proud of, or even awards if applicable. Finally, try to mention your extracellular activities or voluntary work as it will show that you are an active person aware of social issues and capable of tackling development challenges.

My role at RSIF

My workstation was the resource mobilization unit. A normal working day was a combination of diverse internal and external meetings with different partners and fulfilling a set of desk tasks such as preparing invitation letters, working with the communications team to support dissemination of relevant conference materials, as well as supporting in the review of information required and ensuring they are complete and accurate. Indeed, the resource mobilization unit was the right place to acquire a variety of vital skills such as critical thinking and collaboration required to solve real world problems.

Throughout my first weeks, my supervisor ensured I had access to the necessary tools that to help me to fit into my role and get to understand my position.  Being part of the resource mobilization unit also gave me a chance to learn various fundraising strategies and appreciate the critical role that the Governments, private sector, foundations and philanthropy institutions play in the education ecosystem in Africa. Fortunately, the conference preparation was just starting so I was lucky to be involved from the beginning.

Key Learnings

Acting as both a participant and a member of the organizing team, I gained a unique perspective on virtual conferences, their challenges and opportunities. I have attended conferences before, virtual and in-person, and being part of the team co-organizing the first RSIF virtual pre-conference exceeded my expectations. Many RSIF pre-conference speakers highlighted the importance of collaboration and adaptability amidst the COVID-19 pandemic while rooting for Science, Technology and Innovation to be an enabler in unlocking opportunities in Africa. For instance, Ms Safaa El Kogeli, Education Practice Manager, Eastern and Southern Region, World Bank, noted in her opening remarks the need to train a critical mass of highly skilled PhD workforce to find innovative solutions with an aim of accelerating socio-economic growth and continue on the path of development. She also underscored the need to have deliberate efforts of ensuring women participation in RSIF programs. Dr Valentine Uwamariya, Minister of Education in Rwanda and PASET governing council chair also emphasized the need to develop the necessary skills to solve African problems and affirmed the Government of Rwanda commitment in supporting RSIF to achieve and maximize its impacts.

My greatest takeaway from co-organizing the virtual conference was the increased inclusion that a virtual event can foster. Registration information revealed that the pre-conference reached a wider range of participants, in part, due to the multi-lingual options that were used to disseminate conference information and the translation features that were available during the virtual pre-conference. Taking an intersectional look, it is even more important for groups traditionally underrepresented due to language barriers in online spaces to have a strong presence so they can be part of these important discussions. Virtual conferencing offers many options for organizers to produce a successful event. They provide tools to implement measures that allow for both healthy and essential engagements through the use of digital solutions that facilitate peer-to-peer learning as well as networking. The RSIF virtual pre-conference provided a platform to have conversations that build relationships and generate ideas that underpin progress on the issues we all care deeply about. The shift to the online space, however, was not at all easy.  Several components required different type of planning and more in-depth consideration, and online convening is a new experience for many attendees and organizers. The challenges notwithstanding, it is without a doubt that online convening’s has now been established as an essential part of work and life since the COVID-19 pandemic begun, and its likely to remain with us for a while.

Conclusion

After four months at RSIF, I have enormous faith in the RSIF program. I hope that by embedding a decolonial critical approach within its technical practice, education stakeholders within Africa and beyond can develop foresight and tactics that can better align research and technology development with local needs.

At this pivotal moment of African history it is counterproductive and evil to even mice words. We need to be active shapers in African technological and innovation advances and not mere observers.

The experience gained from this internship has given me the privilege of developing an experiential and diverse learning experience and having the opportunity to interact with different groups of people and to learn from their insights and endeavours. I thankful for that. This experience will propel my short and long-term goals for the urgent positive change of the society and myself.

My Internship experience

By Juliet Mwaura, former RSIF Research and Innovation Grants Intern (July 2021-Dec 2021)

My experience while working with the Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund (RSIF) as a Research and Innovation Grants Intern was very positive. I had the most welcoming, helpful and supportive colleagues who were willing to guide me during the internship period. As I had not dealt with grants before, this internship taught me that adjusting to different situations in life is important and when you put in the work, a lot can be achieved. Gradually working with the team, I realized that they were very talented individuals, coming from diverse backgrounds and skillsets and were really passionate about the work they were doing. It didn’t take me long to get integrated into the team as everyone treated me as an equal contributor to the program even during chairing the team’s bi-weekly meetings. I hope that in future, I can find a team full of people just as encouraging and passionate about their work.

I got to learn a lot throughout the journey, through screening and eligibility checks of some of the projects such as Accelerating inclusive green growth through Agri-based digital innovation in West Africa (AGriDI), the PASET-RSIF MozSkills Subproject and Cohort 4 call for PhD Scholarship applications received, attending the Business Incubation Workshop for RSIF Innovation projects, Grants Independent Technical Committee (GITC) meetings held to select qualified projects to be funded, and virtually attending the 2nd Eastern Africa Bioeconomy Conference and RSIF Virtual Pre-Conference 2021. All these different aspects I was involved in helped me learn the different processes involved in ensuring that deliverables in the different components of providing Research and Innovation Grants are met.

After 6 months working together with the team, I have gained an enthusiasm for working on programs that promote and fund researchers to solve some of the complex problems that affect Africa especially in the areas of ICT including big data and artificial intelligence, food security and agri-business, minerals, mining and materials engineering, energy including renewables and climate change. I am particularly thankful to RSIF’s manager, for the confidence he had in me even as an intern to perform tasks, since interns are rarely involved in the day-to-day important activities in many organizations, unfortunately; and ensuring that we had a favourable working environment.

For future interns who will join the RSIF team, I would tell you; Always be curious and ask questions. Also, if you have a solution to something, say it. Show your creativity and don’t be afraid to take up new challenges. I’m so grateful for the opportunity and I look forward to what’s in store for me, perhaps in the future I will also apply for the RSIF PhD Scholarship and benefit from the great opportunity that has been created.

Meet one of RSIF’s first PhD Graduates

Dr. Noel Gahamanyi was one of the two first RSIF Scholars to graduate with a Doctorate of Philosophy degree on Friday, 26th November 2021 during the 38th Graduation Ceremony of Sokoine University of Agriculture, one of the RSIF African Host Universities (AHUs) in Tanzania. The Rwandese national, who was among the 15 Cohort 1 RSIF PhD Scholarship recipients in 2018, had their research under the thematic area of Food Security and Agribusiness, on “Assessing the molecular epidemiology and antimicrobial susceptibility profiles of thermophilic Campylobacter species from human and animal faeces in South Korea and Tanzania.” In the interview below, Dr Gahamanyi shares his PhD journey.

Q. When did you defend your thesis (Dates)?

A. I defended my thesis on 9th November 2021.

Q. What did it feel like at the moment you defended your thesis and after?

A. I was eager to share my findings with the panellists and was confident in the experience I acquired throughout my four years of study.

Immediately after being told that the panel recommended that I be awarded the PhD degree that I registered for, I felt relaxed and thanked God for being with me. I may compare the feeling I had to the one a mother feels when holding her baby after delivery.

Q. What was your study about?

A. The title of my thesis was ‘‘Assessing the molecular epidemiology and antimicrobial susceptibility profiles of thermophilic Campylobacter species from human and animal faeces in South Korea and Tanzania”. For animals, I collected faeces from cattle and layer chicken.

Q. What does your PhD mean to you, your Country (Rwanda) and Africa?

A. Being a PhD holder means a lot to me since I have been in Academia for over six years. However, you cannot become a full Professor without having a PhD degree. The knowledge and skills acquired through my PhD journey are important to my career as an expert in Molecular epidemiology and antimicrobial resistance. Also, with a PhD degree, I can work as independent researcher and apply for grants which is difficult for MSc Holders.

Since Rwanda is a land-locked country with limited resources and a shortage of PhD holders in higher learning institutions, completing my PhD program in the thematic area of Food Security and Agribusiness will benefit my country, which is a knowledge-based economy. I recently published a review paper on ‘Ethnobotany, Ethnopharmacology, and Phytochemistry of Medicinal Plants Used for Treating Human Diarrheal Cases in Rwanda’. This paper can serve as baseline for anti-diarrheal drug discovery or further research in this field.

Africa as a continent already benefited from my PhD work as I published a systematic review on ‘Prevalence, risk factors, and antimicrobial resistance profiles of thermophilic Campylobacter species in humans and animals in Sub-Saharan Africa’ which has already been cited 16 times. Also, Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a global threat and using One Health Approach, I hope to collaborate with other researchers to fight against misuse of existing antimicrobials and contribute to the achievement of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) especially the SDG 3 related to Good Health and Wellbeing.

Q. What message do you have for the RSIF students who are still pursuing their PhD?

A. With commitment, dedication, and honesty, you will achieve your goals. You should not be over-ambitious and remember that flexibility is required if you want to be successful. Dropping an objective or replacing it with another one should not be a hindrance to your progress. Also, you must make sure that the relationship with the main supervisor is near perfect. Finally, a balanced life is key to success as no one can be busy with PhD work all the time (24/7). If you like soccer or movies, you can schedule your activities and spare some two hours for your hobbies. There is a Latin saying, ‘Si isti et iste, cur non ego?’ which means ‘If others can do it, why can’t I?’ If I managed to do it, you can also do the same or do greater.

Q. What did it feel like to receive the Best Postgraduate Student Research Award and to Graduate?

A. Sincerely speaking, receiving the Best Postgraduate Student Research Award from Sokoine University of Agriculture was a surprise to me because I knew what I did in research, but was not aware of the publications made by other graduands. I was delighted to receive the award, which meant my contribution to the scientific knowledge was recognized.

Graduating as a PhD holder was satisfying because I finally got what I went for. Having my PhD degree is like holding a master key in my hands. I also considered it an honour and would like the sponsors (Partnership for skills in Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology (PASET), the Government of Rwanda and the Government of Korea) to know that their investment was not wasted.

Q. How did RSIF help you achieve your PhD?

A. The Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund (RSIF) contributed to the completion of my PhD program in different ways. First, RSIF organized various training sessions on Information literacy, Reference management and Leadership among others, which PhD scholars need in their writing. Second, a memorandum of understanding (MoU), through RSIF, was signed with the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) to provide a two-year internship at the Natural Product Informatics Research Center, KIST Gangneung Institute of Natural Products. Last, RSIF gave me an opportunity to become confident through various presentations like the one I made in Kigali during the 5th PASET forum.

Q. What are/ were your expected outcomes of the research?

A. The PhD thesis had four outcomes that serve as a baseline for future studies:

(i) the usefulness of molecular techniques in emerging Campylobacter detection

(ii) the molecular epidemiology and antimicrobial resistance of Campylobacter from layers

(iii) the importance of some natural products as alternative to conventional antimicrobials in the control of Campylobacter infections

(iv) Whole-genome sequencing data of Campylobacter from layer chicken for better understanding the Campylobacter epidemiology

Q. What are your hopes and vision for your career ahead/ what do you hope to work on?

A. I have been in Academia and like the profession of teaching, so there is a high probability that I will go back to Academia. In Rwanda, there is limited work on Campylobacter species and their antimicrobial resistance profiles despite being one of the major causative agents of diarrhoea. Therefore, I am planning to extend my research in Rwanda and know the extent of campylobacteriosis in both humans and animals. Sooner or later, I will go for a postdoctoral fellowship.

Q. You led the RSIF student association – any advice on how to kickstart the RSIF alumni association?

A. I enjoyed leading the RSIF student association. Pioneers always put in a lot of effort to lay the foundation for the next generations. Regarding the RSIF Alumni, we are the pioneers, and hope that once the majority of Cohort I scholars have graduated, we will have a sitting and adopt some terms and conditions that the RSIF alumni association will be based on. I would advise the PASET-RSIF team to strengthen the RSIF alumni association as it serves as an inspiration to continuing scholars; that the completion of the PhD program is possible despite the difficulties faced.

Q. What are your Scientific achievements?

A. I discovered new sequence types (STs) including ST-10645, ST-10647, ST-10648 that were isolated from layer chicken in South Korea. During the PhD journey, I managed to publish six papers in high impact factor journals. I suggested some medicinal plants and phytochemicals that can be used in the treatment/control of campylobacteriosis and/or diarrhoea in general. I also showed that layer chicken are neglected sources of Campylobacter species that are resistant to commonly used antimicrobials. The obtained strains are freely available in international databases and can be accessed by other researchers working in the same field. I attended various international conferences where I had an opportunity to disseminate the research findings by oral or poster presentations. I joined different scientific communities like the American Society of Microbiology (ASM) and the Young East African Health Research Scientists Forum (YEARS) which is part of networking. The details of my publications can be accessed via my ORCID.

Q. Anything you would like to say to PASET/RSIF-RCU (Regional Coordination Unit)

A. I want to congratulate PASET/RSIF-RCU for the great initiative of training a pool of scientists from Africa with a mission to find solutions to the problems our mother Africa is facing. It is almost impossible to undertake the PhD program without funding especially in most of the low and middle-income countries (LMICs). The journey, however, is long considering the 10,000 PhD scholars to be trained. Therefore, efforts are needed in recruiting more qualified African Host Universities (AHUs) and International Partner Institutions (IPIs). I would like also to take this opportunity to ask the PASET/RSIF-RCU to continue supporting the graduates through the Alumni or by providing postdoctoral fellowships all aimed at capacity building of researchers from Africa.

Other stories about Dr. Noel Gahamanyi

1. Life, study and research at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST): RSIF PhD Scholar Noel Gahamanyi’s story.

2. Then and now: How smart technologies are changing life in Africa

3. Understanding antimicrobial resistance and way forward

4. Dr Gahamanyi’s published manuscripts can be accessed by visiting RSIF Scholars’ Publications through the RSIF repository

RSIF scholarly publications and publication metrics

RSIF Scholars have made remarkable contribution to the body of knowledge by publishing their research work in high quality peer reviewed journal articles and presenting papers in international conferences. To date, a total of 60 journal articles and conference papers have been published by the scholars in the 5 thematic areas: Climate Change (11); Energy including Renewables (4); Food security and Agribusiness (19); ICTs including Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (9); and Minerals, Mining and Materials Engineering (16).

There has been notable growth in number of publications from 0 in 2018 when the program started, 9 in 2019, 20 in 2020 to 30 in 2021 (October). Cohort 1 have published 37 peer-reviewed and conference papers, while Cohort 2 have published 22 papers. Total publications by Female Scholars are 16 at (27%) and 44 by Male (73%). All publications are available on RSIF digital repository: https://repository.rsif-paset.org

Publications metrics at a glance!

The research output is making impact as depicted by the number of articles downloads, views and citations from around the world.

RSIF Capacity building activities have been instrumental in supporting scholarly authorship. To mention a few, RSIF supports subscription access to 45,136 high quality e-resources (41,926 e-books and 3,210
e-journals) for the African Host Universities (AHUs). Usage of these resources is at over 350,000 hits. In addition, RSIF conducts biannual Information Literacy and Reference Management training workshops designed to help researchers, including PhD students, acquire intellectual, critical and logical skills to determine needed information; access or locate that information fast; evaluate the information and use effectively and efficiently the retrieved information. The workshops include engaging participants in practical activities in developing search strategies, using reference management tools and identifying credible publishing platforms. This has equipped the scholars with skills in conducting research and identifying credible and high impact journals to publish in.

Featured Publications and Scholars

1. Most popular publication

Sodedji Frejus Ariel Kpedetin, a cohort 1 scholar from Benin, is co-author of the article that has the highest number of citations, views and downloads. Sodedji is currently undertaking his PhD in Food security and agribusiness at University Felix Houphouët-Boigny, Côte d’Ivoire. He has written a blog on ‘I am on a mission to improve cowpea breeding in Africa’ published by RSIF.

Ayenan, M. A. T., Danquah, A., Hanson, P., Ampomah-Dwamena, C., Sodedji, F. A. K., Asante, I. K., & Danquah, E. Y. (2019). Accelerating Breeding for Heat Tolerance in Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.): An integrated approach. In Agronomy (Vol. 9, Issue 11, p. 720). MDPI AG. https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy9110720

                 19                                               2227                                                     4,963

Citations                                Abstract reviews                             Full text downloads

2. Scholar with highest number of publications
The scholar with the highest number of publications that have been published after joining RSIF program is Richard Kipyegon Koech, a cohort 1 scholar from Kenya. Richard is undertaking his PhD in Minerals, Mining and Materials Engineering at African University of Science and Technology (AUST). He has published 7 articles and also written a blog on ‘My dream is to mentor young scientists’ published on RSIF website. We feature 3 of his articles published in 2021.

  • Koech, R. K., Ichwani, R., Martin, J. L., Oyewole, D. O., Oyelade, O. v., Olanrewaju, Y. A., Sanni, D. M., Adeniji, S. A., Grimm, R. L., Bello, A., Oyewole, O. K., Ntsoenzok, E., & Soboyejo, W. O. (2021). A study of the effects of a thermally evaporated nanoscale CsBr layer on the optoelectronic properties and stability of formamidinium-rich perovskite solar cells. AIP Advances, 11(9), 095112. https://doi.org/10.1063/5.0064398
  • Oyewole, D. O., Koech, R. K., Ichwani, R., Ahmed, R., Hinostroza Tamayo, J., Adeniji, S. A., Cromwell, J., Colin Ulloa, E., Oyewole, O. K., Agyei-Tuffour, B., Titova, L. v., Burnham, N. A., & Soboyejo, W. O. (2021). Annealing effects on interdiffusion in layered FA-rich perovskite solar cells. AIP Advances, 11(6), 065327. https://doi.org/10.1063/5.0046205
  • Adeniji, S. A., Cromwell, J., Oyewole, D. O., Oyelade, O. v., Koech, R. K., Sanni, D. M., Oyewole, O. K., Babatope, B., & Soboyejo, W. O. (2021). Pressure-assisted fabrication of perovskite light emitting devices. AIP Advances, 11(2), 025112. https://doi.org/10.1063/5.0035953

3.Most recent publication

Abdulkadir, M., Kajero, O. T., Olarinoye, F. O., Udebhulu, D. O., Zhao, D., Aliyu, A. M., & Al-Sarkhi, A. (2021). Investigating the Behaviour of Air–Water Upward and Downward Flows: Are You Seeing What I Am Seeing? Energies 2021, Vol. 14, Page 7071, 14(21), 7071. https://doi.org/10.3390/EN14217071

Meet RSIF’s first PhD Graduate

Dr. Jean Nepomuscene Hakizimana, a Rwandese national who was among the 15 Cohort 1 RSIF PhD Scholarship recipients in 2018, successfully defended his PhD thesis on 30th September 2021 at Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), one of the RSIF African Host Universities (AHUs) in Tanzania. Dr Hakizimana is RSIF’s very first PhD Graduate. His research, under the thematic area of Food Security and Agribusiness, was on the “Determination of the genetic variation and epidemiology of African swine fever virus in selected countries of eastern and southern Africa”. Dr. Hakizimana has been offered a postdoctoral fellow position at Sokoine University of Agriculture which he is considering as an opportunity to start his research career. In the interview below, Hakizimana shares his PhD journey.

 

Q. What was your PhD study about?

A. The title of my Ph.D. thesis is “Determination of the genetic variation and epidemiology of African swine fever virus in selected countries of eastern and southern Africa”. A multidisplinary approach combining viral genomics, bioinformatics and social sciences was used to elucidate the socio-economic impact, transmission dynamics, genetic and antigenic diversity of African swine fever virus (ASFV) in eastern and southern Africa. Next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies allowed me to report the first complete genome sequences of ASFV in Malawi and Burundi, advancing our understanding of viral transmission, evolution, diversity and pathogenicity in eastern and southern Africa. A high ASFV genotypic diversity was observed and after phylogeographic analysis, several transboundary transmission events of the virus were observed. These findings call for a concerted regional and international effort to control the spread of ASFV to improve nutritional and food security, and livelihoods. Four manuscripts from my Ph.D. research have been published in high impact international peer-reviewed journals, including Viruses (Impact factor of 5.048, https://doi.org/10.3390/v13020306), Frontiers in Veterinary Sciences (impact factor of 2.245, https://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2020.578474), BMC Veterinary Research (impact factor of 2.179, https://doi.org/10.1186/s12917-020-02536-8) and Tropical Animal Health and Production (Impact factor of 1.681, https://doi.org/10.1007/s11250-021-02877-y).

Q. You defended your PhD thesis on 30th September 2021, what did that moment feel like?

A. During my defence, I fully concentrated on my research work and sharing my accumulated knowledge on the topic with members of the Viva Voce examination panel. After the successful defence, it was a moment of immense happiness for the achieved milestones and for all the effort over the years. It reminded me of all people who supported me during my study to whom I am extremely grateful. In that moment, I realized that it was actually finished. I am most grateful to PASET and my government for supporting my PhD studies.

Q. After your successful defense, you were offered a postdoctoral fellow position to continue doing your research. What does that mean to you?

A. It is very exciting because it is an opportunity to further my research on viral diseases within a convivial scientific research environment. I will continue benefiting from the expertise of the Community of Practice for Viral Diseases of Food Security and Livelihood Importance at the Southern African Centre for Infectious Disease Surveillance (SACIDS Foundation for One Health) of the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA). The Community of Practice approach allows working with senior, peer and junior researchers from within Africa and Europe. The advantage of this platform, is that it allows collaborative research in a multi-displinary team of world-class scientists, allowing the scholar to be scientifically well equipped and ready to embark on his journey as an independent researcher and scientist. However, I wish to explore how my research and experience can more directly benefit my country.

Q. As a Rwandese, does acquiring this PhD mean anything to your Country?

A. The acquired expertise in genomics of transboundary animal diseases will be very useful to my country Rwanda and to the whole of Africa. The importance of genomic surveillance of viral epidemics has been particularly evidenced during the current COVID-19 pandemic. I am now an expert in pathogen metagenomics and bioinformatics. These skills are necessary for early detection and identification of pathogens, and a prerequisite to containing viral epidemics before they become unmanageable.

Q. What message do you have for the hundreds of RSIF scholars who are still pursuing their PhD studies?

A. Do not get discouraged by challenges on the Ph.D. journey, it is part of the training. By working hard, perseverance and the grace of God, you will overcome these challenges and emerge successful.

Q. Having successfully completed your PhD studies, share with us the general impression of your experience as a RSIF scholar.

A. After successfully defending my Ph.D., I consider RSIF as the best Ph.D. training program in Africa because it is an Africa-led program where Africans search for solutions to the most pressing challenges facing our continent. The sandwich component of the program allowing scholars to get access to more advanced infrastructures and expertise at an International Partner Institution (IPI) allows African researchers to build international scientific networks and obtain specialized training. This was evident during my Ph.D. where I worked with top researchers in Tanzania, Rwanda and from Belgium. In addition, the staff of RSIF Regional Coordination Unit at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) were very supportive during my studies.

Q. How does your current knowledge gained compare to what you imagined it would be like going into your studies?

A. The knowledge gained during my Ph.D. studies met my expectations. I have acquired specialized skills in pathogen metagenomics and bioinformatics along with the required international scientific network necessary for my professional and personal development. After a successful defence of my Ph.D., I am scientifically fully equipped to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution era and ready to contribute to containing viral epidemics in Africa.

Other stories about Dr. Jean Nepomuscene Hakizimana

  1. I will contribute to the fight against infectious diseases in Africa https://www.rsif-paset.org/i-will-contribute-to-the-fight-against-infectious-diseases-in-africa/
  2. One step to 10,000 http://www.icipe.org/news/one-step-10000
  3. Dr Hakizimana’s published manuscripts can be accessed by visiting RSIF Scholars’ Publications through the RSIF repository

 

Two International Partner Institutions join Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund (RSIF)

Two more International Institutions have  joined the Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund (RSIF) as International Partner Institutions (IPIs), making it five IPIs since the start of 2021 and bringing the new over total to 19 .

RSIF IPIs are advanced universities, research institutes/centers or companies (public or private) that are willing and competent to offer research internship opportunities for RSIF PhD Scholars from Africa studying at universities in Africa Host Universities (AHUs). Advanced/international research centers and civil society partners and private sector firms in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), and universities in South Africa, may also qualify as IPIs. Launched in 2017, RSIF is the flagship program for the Partnership for skills in Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology (PASET), an African-led initiative which aims to build competencies and skills to support growth of key economic sectors that support Africa’s socio-economic transformation spanning upper-secondary level, technical, vocational education and training (TVET), postgraduate education and postdoctoral research and mentorship.

RSIF supports PhD students, post-doctoral scientists and universities in SSA to establish high quality training, research and innovation environments and to develop institutional capacity for the benefit of the whole region. The two new partner institutions will host PhD students in the competitive call expected to open soon.

University of Lisbon  (ULisboa), the largest, most prestigious university in Portugal and one of Europe’s leading universities, is a public research university located in Lisbon. ULisboa brings together various areas of knowledge and has a privileged position for facilitating the contemporary evolution of science, technology, arts and humanities. The quality of teaching, research, innovation and culture of ULisboa is attracting an ever-increasing amount of talent from around the world.

University of Michigan (U-M) is the oldest, public comprehensive research university in Ann Arbor, Michigan with a mission to serve the people of the State of Michigan and the world through pre-eminence in creating, communicating, preserving and applying knowledge, art and academic values and in developing leaders and citizens who will challenge the present and enrich the future. U-M has ranked first among public universities in the United States of America in terms of research expenditures at least since 2010 and has strength in research and training in all the PASET focus areas. The African Studies Center (ASC) at U-M was founded in 2008 to serve as the conduit for U-M’s Africa focused research, teaching, partnerships and programming.

The other IPIs in the program include the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD), Ghent University, The higher national school of mines of Albi-Carmaux (Institut Mines-Télécom (IMT), Institutes of Green-bio Science & Technology – Seoul National University (GBST-SNU), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Korea Institute of Energy Research (KIER), Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology (KRICT), Maastricht University (MU), Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P), Telecom SudParis, The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), The Seoul National University Global Research & Development and Business Center (GRC), University of Greenwich, University of Pretoria (UP), Virginia Tech and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI)

This increase in the number of partner institutions is a big step towards achieving one of the program’s objectives, which is to strengthen the institutional capacity for quality and sustainable doctoral training, research and innovation in transformative technologies in sub-Saharan Africa by incorporating sandwich training options. The program also aims to build research excellence in ASET fields by developing the capacity for PhD training and undertaking applied research and innovation in partnership with a network of renowned IPIs and strengthen research capacity regionwide by prioritizing the scholarships to African faculty that lack PhD training.

The number of RSIF scholars is set to triple from that planned in the original pilot project to reach close to 300 by early 2022.  Through PASET-RSIF the cost of PhD training is significantly lowered, while also reducing inbreeding in national universities since PhD training will be done in other African universities and international partner institutions. By working closely with academic institutions, relevant investors and governments and other stakeholders within sub-Saharan Africa; specialized knowledge will be integrated in the region and transferred to the future generation. Recent partnerships take into account the language diversity in the growing body of RSIF doctoral students, as more governments in Francophone Western Africa and Lusophone Southern Africa have contributed to RSIF.

RSIF aims to support doctoral training and post-doctoral research and innovation in the five priority economic sectors for growth and development across Sub- Saharan Africa. The program uses scholarships together with research and innovation grants that improve the quality and relevance of the PhD programs to guarantee continuity and sustainability of research and innovations once the scholars graduate. RSIF is currently funded by African governments, the World Bank, the Government of Korea, and the European Union through the ACP Innovation Fund and managed by the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), Nairobi, Kenya, as the RSIF Regional Coordinating Unit (RCU). More funders and partners are invited to join the first Africa-led Pan-African science fund.