Benefits to RSIF Contributing Governments

RSIF is unique in being an African government-led science fund for Africa. The program, which was initiated in 2015 has supported over 180 PhD students and provided 14 research and innovation grants through African ‘Host’ Universities. As contributors to RSIF, African governments benefit in more ways than through the cost-effective training of its doctoral students.

Countries also benefit from efficient centralized administration of the scholarship and other grants, support for the RSIF scholars to ensure that they complete on time, as well as regular monitoring reports on the progress of their students. The pooling of funds, the highly competitive selection of host universities, international partners and students, and the efficient administration of the fund enhances the value and increases the benefits.

African countries’ participation in RSIF benefits their entire higher education, science and innovation ecosystem. All RSIF scholars will undergo high quality doctoral training in competitively selected SSA universities partnered with international universities, with study abroad for part of the time, at a fraction of the cost of sending students abroad for a full time PhD.  On successful completion of the PhD, the students will be eligible for research and innovation grants.

Highly Skilled Human Capital as a Driver for the African Union Agenda 2063 and National Development Plans

The rationale for RSIF is that Africa requires world class scientists in priority thematic disciplines that are relevant to national economic growth across sub-Saharan Africa. Some of these areas include orphaned research areas such as mining, minerals and materials science, energy and information and communication technology among others. This African led program aims to support the training of African innovators and leaders, with focus on women and faculty, to be able to strengthen the capacity of universities to train at the doctoral level and undertake innovative and impactful research for the future needs of the continent and the participating countries.

Read more in RSIF Country Reports 2021 through the RSIF Repository

RSIF is owned and led by African governments through PASET and icipe is the RSIF Regional Coordination Unit.

RSIF is designed for sustainability and has two components: (i) the General Fund and (ii) the Permanent or Endowment Fund, with proceeds to capitalize the general fund.  Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda and Senegal have made or are at the final stages of making contributions to PASET RSIF, in addition to the Government of Korea, the ACP Innovation Fund of the European Union and the World Bank, bringing funds to US$ 51.7 million.

Country contributions have been earmarked to doctoral scholarships, and in some cases to support research and innovation projects, aligned with national needs. The potential of African countries’ innovative expansion due to investment in RSIF is multiplied when leveraged by the funds through matching support from various donors, including the Government of Korea, international partner institutions and others.

More importantly, RSIF aims to create a sustainable vehicle for supporting science, technology and innovation capacity building through a permanent fund that is being established by the governments. Many African governments are interested to be part of this.

Find out more

Four African universities join Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund (RSIF)


Four more universities have joined the Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund (RSIF) as African Host Universities (AHUs), bringing the new total to 15. RSIF AHUs are universities or research institutes/centres (e.g. Africa Centers of Excellence) in sub-Saharan Africa that offer a strong PhD program in one of the priority thematic areas. Launched in 2017, RSIF is the flagship program for the Partnership for skills in Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology (PASET), an African-led initiative with the goal of strengthening skills in the Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology (ASET) to further socio-economic transformation in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

RSIF focuses on transformative technologies that have a far-reaching positive impact on society. It 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 four new RSIF host universities will host PhD students in RSIF’s fourth cohort, for which the competitive call for PhD scholarships is currently open until 30 September 2021.

2iE – International Institute of Water and Environmental Engineering is an international institute for education and research committed to covering areas of water, environment, energy, civil engineering, mining and managerial sciences through training of highly qualified and innovative entrepreneurial engineers in Africa. Located in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, the selected PhD program at 2iE is in Science and Technology of Water, Energy and Environment, in the African Centre of Excellence for Training and Research in Water and Environment Sciences and Technologies in West Africa (CEA-IMPACT 2iE).

Haramaya University  is a pre-eminent institution of higher learning in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia that have pioneered the field of agricultural sciences and the provisioning of the tripartite functions of education, research, and extension. The selected PhD programme at HU is in Climate Smart Agriculture and Biodiversity Conservation, under the Africa Center of Excellence for Climate Smart Agriculture and Biodiversity Conservation (ACE Climate SABC).

Makerere University (MAK), located in Kampala, Uganda, is one of the oldest and most prestigious English Universities in Africa, having been established in 1922 as a humble technical school. Committed to providing transformative and innovative teaching, learning and research responsive to dynamic national and global needs, the selected PhD programme at MU is in Plant Breeding and Biotechnology, within the Makerere University Regional Centre for Crop Improvement (MaRCCI).

The University of Abomey-Calavi (UAC) is the principal public university in the west African country of Benin. Composed of 19 institutions and six campuses, the selected PhD program is in Information and Communication Technologies of the Institute of Mathematics and Physical Sciences, African Centre of Excellence in Mathematical Sciences, IT and applications (SMIA).

Competitively selected by an independent, international panel of experts and endorsed by the PASET Executive Board, the other AHUs in the program include the African University of Science and Technology (AUST), Kenyatta University (KU) and The Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology (NM-AIST) in the Minerals, mining and materials engineering thematic area; Bayero University Kano (BUK), and University Félix Houphouët-Boigny (U-FHB) in the Climate change thematic area; University of Nairobi (UoN) and University of Port Harcourt in the Energy including renewables thematic area; Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) and University of Ghana (UG) in the Food security and agribusiness thematic area; University of Gaston Berger (UGB) and University of Rwanda (UR) in the ICTs including big data and artificial intelligence thematic area.

This increase in the number of host universities is a big step towards achieving one of the program’s objectives, which is to build African university capacity to provide relevant ASET training and to ensure continued investment in scaling up the ASET education and workforce 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 International Partner Universities (IPIs) and strengthen research capacity regionwide by prioritizing the scholarships to African faculty that lack PhD training.

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.


RSIF Cohort lll Orientation week was a good start for my PhD Journey

By Hellen Ngunya Mutua

The eagerly awaited session since the reception of my congratulatory note from Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund (RSIF) was finally at hand. Our orientation as Cohort lll recipients of the RSIF coveted PhD scholarships. My name is Hellen Ngunya Mutua, a Kenyan whose RSIF host University is University of Nairobi, Kenya.

The RSIF Cohort III scholar’s orientation took place from 28th June to 2nd July 2021. I thank God and the RSIF team for granting me an opportunity to be among the 98 scholars who attended the online weeklong orientation program via zoom. Scholars from Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Senegal, Cote d’lvore and Ghana Host Universities converged online for the orientation training and different facilitators took up active roles in running their assigned tasks in training the scholars.

It was my pleasure to virtually meet Dr Moses Osiru, the Manager, Regional Coordination Unit (RCU) of the Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund (RSIF), who welcomed the scholars and gave information about icipe’s. The background, location, and operations. I discovered the great efforts that RSIF puts in its scholars when Fatoumata Thiam, a Senegalese cohort I beneficiary, narrated her academic journey. Her story encouraged me to always aim high and confirmed to me that everything is possible in academics, if you are determined, humble, work hard, and completely trust in God.

Listening to Ms. Ruth Charo the Education Specialist from the World bank made me realize that a high-quality doctorate degree was expected from me after 4 years of its pursuit. I thought of the numerous challenges affecting the African community that awaited solutions from many scholars, including myself. The orientation session marked the beginning of a marvelous journey towards success, as stated by Prof. Goolam Mohamdbhai and Prof. Aminata Sall Diallo of PASET Executive Board. Their words of encouragement assured me that I would soon achieve a PhD in Physics and inspired me to soon become a professor in Physics.

I also met people that I have always admired like Mr. Boniface Nyagah, who was always time conscious and ensured all activities went on as scheduled. He patiently went through the chats after every presentation while addressing all the issues raised by the scholars. I would like to congratulate Mr. Nyagah for managing the session well, despite scholars asking questions in no particular order. I would also like to thank Ms. Elizabeth Murimi, for being available to address the scholars’ concerns in a timely fashion, as our issues and questions about the scholarship were clarified and answered.

It was eye opening listening to Dr. Rob Skilton, Dr Daisy Salif, Dr. Henri Tonnang and Ms. Mary Ngure, as they all guided us on how to carry out our PhD research work. Because of their thorough presentations, I now have all the dos and don’ts at my fingertips. Some of the issues discussed at length were research integrity and ethics, research methods and statistics, research data management, workflow and information literacy, all key in the success of our research work. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the RSIF team was not only concerned about our academic achievement but also our safety. This was demonstrated by the eye-opening discussion we had with Ms. Pamela Tuiyott on sexual violence and the need to always be safe because everyone is vulnerable.

Listening to different African Host Universities’ (AHU) coordinators gave scholars a good guide on what awaits them in their respective universities. The fear and anxiety we previously had, begun to fade away and was replaced with excitement. The possibility of earning a successful PhD was clearly tabled by Prof. Baldwyn Torto together with Ms. Sylvia Maina and Emmanuel Effah’s shared experiences. I learnt that the journey we were about to begin as scholars would have its ups and downs, and therefore called for perseverance to reach desired destinations. I also learnt the importance of communicating my research findings and how to efficiently execute it through Ms. Maureen Agena and Ms. Sakina Kahindi’s presentations. I appreciate Ms. Safaa El- Kogali for sharing her story on her desire to thrive amidst many challenges as a woman.

With support from different stakeholders sponsoring my PhD program, I have concrete reasons to shine in my academics as I promise to work hard and achieve a high-quality PhD.


Hellen Ngunya Mutua, a Kenyan by nationality is one of the 102 recipients of a RSIF PhD scholarship in Cohort lll.  She will study Physics at the University of Nairobi in Kenya.




My dream is to mentor young scientists

Richard Kipyegon Koech is a Kenyan RSIF Scholarship recipient pursing a PhD in Material science and engineering at the African University of Science and Technology (AUST), Abuja-Nigeria and currently at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) on a sandwich programme.

Throughout his academic journey, the dream of being one of the best scientists with the ability to address societal challenges and to mentor young scientists has always lingered in his mind. Getting the RSIF PhD scholarship opportunity was a step towards fulfilling this dream, because the scholarship has already opened doors for him to connect with renowned researchers in his field of research. The RSIF scholarship has also helped him to build a network of people from diverse disciplines who have shaped him in ways unimaginable.

When Koech joined African University of Science and Technology (AUST), one of the PASET African Host Universities (AHU) in Abuja, Nigeria in 2018, he did complete the required core courses while working on the literature review and writing his research proposal. While at the AHU, Koech also got opportunities to participate in workshops and conferences which provided avenues for him to interact with experts in different areas of material science. In one of the workshop that was organized by the Joint Undertaking for an African Materials Institute (JUAMI) in Kampala-Uganda, Koech interacted with many researchers from various regions across Africa and US from whom he got exposure on various hands-on activities on materials characterization.

He is currently progressing well with experimental work on the fabrication and characterization of perovskite solar cells at WPI which is one of the PASET international partner institution (IPI). Being in WPI portends well for him as a student and an upcoming researcher. He joined the energy research group; led by Professor Wole who is a renowned researcher in material science; through which he has been able to deepen his understanding on various aspects related to solar cells, light emitting diodes and energy storage devices. Together with the research team, he has co-authored seven publications in peer reviewed journals.  With this teamwork, and the support he receives from his supervisors, he has a lot of hopes that he will accomplish his research goals in WPI and broaden his research collaboration network.

As a student, nothing is as good as seeing the hope of achieving what your heart has always yearned for. Koech has always hoped to be among the best researchers who will inspire many young scientists and with the progress he is making he sees this dream slowly turning into a reality. With the skills he has acquired, he hopes to be seriously involved in research and training other upcoming researchers in his field of specialization.

He admits that Covid-19 is a disaster that has affected everybody in different magnitudes. As a researcher and a family man, Koech says that the effects of Covid-19 have not spared him. Throughout the lockdown period that was meant to curb the spread of Covid-19, he could neither go to the lab to do the experiments nor visit his family back in Kenya. He had to convert his room into a study area and had to spend most of the time doing the write ups; as his research work was mostly experimental and needed physical presence in the Laboratory. Many challenges came along with this, spanning from boredom, psychological disturbance to those related to long period of physical inactivity. Covid-19 therefore affected his research plan which he is now trying to catch up with to be able to finish on time.

He is very grateful for the RSIF scholarship and calls upon more African Governments to come together and invest in the fund so that more bright and talented African youths can have their dreams turned into realities. Investing in the youth is the best way to transform the African continent given the nature of its demographic distribution.

Continue reading “My dream is to mentor young scientists”

Nicknamed “Professseur” by my peers, I was inspired to pursue a PhD

Jean Baptiste HABINSHUTI from Rwanda is a PASET-RSIF Scholar in Material Science and Engineering at African University of Science and Technology (AUST) in Nigeria. Being a recipient of RSIF PhD scholarship opportunity meant a lot to him. First, it was an avenue to upgrade his academic qualification, but it also gave him a chance to realize his high school dream to earn the title of professor after having been nicknamed “Professseur” by students from his community for organizing science tutoring sessions during high school holidays. Little did they know that it was a catalyst for him to build himself and achieve his personal goals and development.

Picture of Baptiste taken in the lab during sample preparation for analysis

He was awarded PASET-RSIF scholarship to pursue a PhD degree in Material Science and Engineering in the thematic area of Mining, Mineral and Materials Engineering at AUST (Nigeria).  At AUST, the PhD program comprises two components: course work and research. To-date, Jean has completed his course work and is now on a sandwich program at Worcester Polytechnique Institute (USA) for part of his research. His research has four projects, of which he has completed two of them, while one is ongoing. He has one manuscript for publication under-review and he is working on the second one.

Why study material Science and engineering?

Jean believes that his study will add significant value to African mineral resources. The research focuses on processing and extraction of tantalite ores using simple, affordable, and environmentally friendly techniques. He is exploring how these techniques can be applied in mining and processing of African tantalite ores and add value to the mineral resources from Africa instead of exporting them in their raw form. By working closely with academic institutions, relevant investors and governments, and other stakeholders within sub-Saharan Africa; this specialized knowledge will be integrated in the region and transferred to the future generation.

When the Covid-19 pandemic spread to Africa, Jean, like many other scholars away from home had worries about his family and they were also worried about him. Getting updates about the Covid-19 status in his country was part of his daily activities. Regular calls to his family and relatives to raise their awareness and help them understand the importance of implementing and following the government preventive policies, was a need. USA was one of the most affected countries in both confirmed cases and mortality, something that caused more worries to Jean, his colleagues and his family. Consequently, staying indoors was the only way to avoid being exposed to the virus. Psychological instability resulting from repetitive activities and being away from the family members begun to affect him and other colleagues.

COVID-19 and the future

All his social life was affected by COVID 19 and as far as his research work was concerned, he had done some of the preliminary experiments before the pandemic paralyzed the activities in the University. When the University was closed in March 2020, access to facilities such as the Laboratories and Libraries became impossible and some activities shifted to remote access. The regular meetings with supervisors for discussion and presentation of research progress also slowed down significantly.

Covid-19 affected Jean’s research work plan because there was no laboratory work during the pandemic. The University has since resumed laboratory access with some restrictions. He admits that he has quite a lot of work to do, as recommended by his advisors, and he is currently trying to maximize on literature review, such that when things normalise, most of his time will be focused on laboratory work. However, there is a clear delay in his work plan, but he is committed to squeeze himself and work hard as he can see the possibilities of meeting the planned timeline to achieve his goals and objectives on time. The only big challenge is about his sample stuck in France due to radioactive material detected in. He, with the help of his host University tried to work on the shipment of other samples from Africa, but the samples were missed completely. FedEX has requested that he file claim to the shipping agency.

Jean is very grateful to RSIF and all collaborators of the program for giving him such an opportunity to shape his future, that of his family and his Country. He urges the management of RSIF to be aware of the impact and delays caused by the pandemic and work collaboratively. The University must do their best to allow access to facilities and tools that enable students to achieve their academic targets on time. RSIF should communicate with student advisors and encourage them to respond as fast as possible when students write to them seeking guidance and or recommendations.

Contact Jean Baptiste Habinshuti via

My knowledge and dreams are transformed into meaningful skills because of RSIF

What it meant to get scholarship for this PhD?

Jeanne Pauline Munganyinka is a PASET/RSIF Scholar studying for a Ph.D at the African University of Science and Technology in Abuja (AUST) and currently on a sandwich programme at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI)Worcester in Massachusetts, United States of America.  Having been among the RSIF first cohort in 2018, Jeanne Pauline admits that the scholarship has helped her transform her knowledge and dreams into meaningful skills in her field.

As a young girl, her desire was to attain a PhD. But she never thought that she would have enough money to afford one. Getting the RSIF scholarship was a dream come true because it gave her the opportunity and means to achieve her childhood dream. Traveling to the United states for her Sandwich programme was the biggest hightlight, because she says, it was an opportunity to unlearn so many things and appreciate the differences in education from her own home country Rwanda and the country of her host University Nigeria.

In the Laboratory
The progress

Supervised by Prof. Grace Ofori-Sarpong (AUST) and Prof. Brajendra Mishra (WPI), Jeanne completed all coursework required by the African University of Science and Technology in Abuja (AUST) her African host University during her first year. She has also successfully defended her research proposal. Her research will provide a green viable method for gold recovery to help countries reduce pollution and wastage during processing of Gold and thus reap greater benefits from this valuable resource, while sustaining the environment.

Jeanne believes that her ‘technology’ will contribute to modernizing the Gold industry in Africa, leading to improvements in the livelihoods of miners, their families, and affected communities and support sustainable development in sub-Saharan Africa. Her dream is to have an Africa that uses advanced technology, where Africans make smart use of their natural resources and transform the lives of people on the continent. This, she hoped  will answer her daily question “Why Africa has such a large source of raw materials and yet continues to import finished products at  very high costs”.

In addition to attending different conferences and trainings. She has submitted one paper that has been accepted. Her second manuscript is under review, while a third is under preparation. She continues to develop her PhD thesis.

How COVID affected Pauline

Jeanne’s research works are laboratory-based. The closing of laboratories, libraries, and offices as a result of Covid-19 interrupted her research work and slowed down the writing of academic papers due to the lack of data. Additionally, she had challenges with the movement of her samples including losing one batch of samples in transit.

WPI partially re-opened after six months, with changed laboratory working hours and arrangement to work in shifts, weekly testing for COVID, limited face-to-face the lab that affected the speed of experiments.  As a student and mother, mixing school with family responsibilities was not easy. Juggling the her family and research responsibilities has been a challenge.

She requests that for future scholars, the programme should provide students with advanced learning devices for easy access to software while analyzing data remotely. Also to mobilize funds to support Ph.D. students whose studies have been affected by COVID-19 and most important, to provide support for an immediate family member for RSIF scholars, to enable mental stability while away and focus on studies without worrying about Family.

Contact Jeanne Pauline Munganyinka via




I will contribute to the fight against infectious diseases in Africa

Jean Nepomuscene Hakizimana is a Rwandan pursuing his Ph.D. studies in Food security and Agribusiness at the Southern African Centre for Infectious Diseases Surveillance (SACIDS Foundation for One Health) hosted at the Sokoine University of Agriculture, Morogoro, Tanzania under a scholarship awarded to him by the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, icipe, through the Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund (RSIF).  The Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund (RSIF), one of PASET’s flagship programs is the first Pan-African science fund that provides doctoral scholarships for African scientists aimed at catalyzing the training of 10,000 PhDs in Applied Sciences Engineering and Technology (ASET) fields.

Hakizimana in the Laboratory

To Hakizimana, getting the PASET-RSIF scholarship for his Ph.D. meant so much for his career and personal development. The Ph.D. whose scholarship confirmation letter he received on 21st March 2018 and accepted, is to-date, he believes, the best career decision he ever made. The excitement was palpable and the enthusiasm about the offered opportunity was commitment towards achieving his career goals and professional growth.

Hakizimana’s research in his Ph.D. project was built on his previous research experience with Transboundary Animal Diseases (TADs) but this time with special focus on genomics and molecular epidemiology of viral diseases of food security and livelihood importance. TADs hinder poverty and hunger alleviation, an important component of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (SDGs) and the African Union Agenda 2063. Jean’s Ph.D. project exploits the advances in genomics and molecular epidemiology technologies and innovations to mitigate the effect of these diseases for an improved livelihood and well-being of livestock farmers.

Under the supervision and mentorship of senior scientists at Sokoine University of Agriculture one of the RSIF African Host University (AHU), Ghent University an RSIF International Partner Institution (IPI) and the Rwanda National Industrial Research and Development Agency, he has no doubt that the outcome of this study will positively impact on Livestock farmers and contribute to food security and livelihoods.

To-date, Hakizimana  has published in high impact factor peer-reviewed journals, for instance Viruses (impact factor of 3.816; Hakizimana et al 2021; see link), Frontiers in Veterinary Science (impact factor of 2.245; Hakizimana et al 2020; see link) and BMC Veterinary Research (5-year impact factor of 2.179; Hakizimana et al 2020;see link) as outputs emanating from his Ph.D. research.

In addition, the experience and expertise gained earned him a research grant (grant NO. I-1-B-6269-1) from the International foundation for Science (IFS) to advance his research on African swine fever in countries neighboring Tanzania and his abstract has been selected for a travel grant by the United States of America Biological Threat Reduction Program (BTRP) to share his research findings with the international scientific community during the Global African Swine Fever Research Alliance (GARA) scientific meeting.

With the high-quality skills and specialized knowledge gained during his Ph.D., Jean hopes to contribute to the training of the next generation of students, researchers and innovators in his area of expertise. He intends to contribute and get involved as a researcher and teacher in the fight against infectious diseases so that he can contribute to the alleviation of the burden of these diseases in Africa where their impacts are greatest.

Despite the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic, Jean kept moving forward but at a slower speed compared to the momentum he had garnered prior to the pandemic. Specifically, the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted his research activities involving collaboration with other institutions where physical presence was required. By working from home and going to the laboratory only when necessary as well as adhering to the travel restrictions, he managed to reduce the negative impact of COVID-19. All the Conferences he was supposed to attend were moved to online, thus during the lockdown, the online alternative was used for specific trainings and conferences in his research area. Positively, the University administration was very supportive with the adoption of the Regulations and Guidelines for Higher Degrees to support online training and management of postgraduate studies in April 2020.

According to Hakizimana, Africa needs home-grown expertise that can tackle new risks such as climate change and global pandemics. RSIF, as an Africa-led initiative with the objective of strengthening the science, technology, and engineering capability in sub-Saharan Africa for its socioeconomic transformation, is useful to advance knowledge, promote research and help the African society discover innovative solutions to overcome its most pressing problems. Clearly, the RSIF program is increasing the quality of scientific research in the region, and Jean is happy to be associated with this initiative and what it stands for.

Conact Mr. Jean Nepomuscene Hakizimana

RSIF Scholar Mabwi Humphrey desires to use his PhD to find solutions linked to food, nutrition and health

Mabwi Humphrey’s journey to his PhD studies began with his desire to join academia as a teaching and research -scientist. Upon completing his MSc degree in Molecular Biology & Biochemistry from the Northeast Normal University in China in 2015, Mabwi took up a teaching/research assistant role at his alma mater, Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology in Kenya. This is the same university where he had completed a bachelor of science degree in Biology/Chemistry. However, one of the key requirements for being a teaching/research assistant was to pursue a PhD. Fortunately, this was in line with his long-term goal of becoming a full time academic and researcher. However, despite this zeal, he lacked the funding to purse a PhD. His dream became closer to reality, when he came across the PASET RSIF PhD Scholarship in 2018! Since 2018, a total of 184 PhD Scholarships distributed across 20 countries in Africa, have been awarded. The first cohort in 2018 had 15 students and one of them is Mabwi Humphrey a Kenyan.

Mabwi busy in the Laboratory

Mabwi, who was part of the first cohort of 15 PASET RSIF students, is currently at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), Gangneung Institute of Natural products undertaking his research as part of his PhD in Biotechnology at Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania.

Managed by icipe, The Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund (RSIF), one of PASET’s flagship programs is the first Pan-African science fund that provides doctoral scholarships for African scientists aimed at catalyzing the training of 10,000 PhDs in Applied Sciences Engineering and Technology (ASET) fields. Priority is given to contributing member countries, the faculty of universities who lack Ph.D. Because funding for PhD training in Africa is very rare, RSIF has provided an excellent opportunity for them  to pursue their PhD training and advance research careers.

Joining the PhD Program

Mabwi started his PhD journey in 2018 when he received the RSIF Scholarship and he expects to graduate in 2022 and became RSIF’s first cohort of Alumni. Sokoine University (SUA), his host University in Africa, academically enjoys a good reputation in Tanzania, especially because its curriculum features comprehensive professional training in agriculture courses in diverse fields, ranging from veterinary medicine, food processing, food bioengineering, to food quality analysis courses. However, the PhD curriculum lays special emphasis on research and there is less emphasis on coursework, as part of the PhD training. The Southern African Centre of – Infectious Disease Surveillance (SACIDS-ACE) at SUA, which hosts the RSIF program at Sokoine university has exposed Mabwi to various practical laboratory and transferrable skills training opportunities.

Mabwi’s PhD thesis is on Functional Foods against Gut Microbiome Dysbiosis. Dysbiosis is associated with a number of diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, colon cancer and diabetes mellitus – modern-day Lifestyle diseases. The purpose of his research is to discover novel functional foods against dysbiosis. Because of the exposure at SACIDS-ACE, Mabwi initially developed his study on Bovine microbiomes with a purpose of tracking pathogens in beef industry. However, upon joining the sandwich program at Korea Institute of Science and Technology, he felt the need to amend his proposal from bovine microbiomes to study human microbiomes in order to align it with requirements of both his supervisor at Sokoine University and at Korea Institute of Science and Technology. To-date, he has published a paper in computational and structural Biotechnology journal and submitted his second paper for publication.

Catching the Dream

Upon completion of his PhD study, Mabwi would like to pursue a postdoctoral research to build his nascent career in academia and research and prepare him for leadership and management roles. He is glad for the funding from RSIF as well as the opportunity to study at both Sokoine University of Agriculture and the Korea Institute of Science and Technology. He also appreciates the RSIF seminars, webinars, courses and soft skills coordinated by icipe which equipped him with various important skills not only academia but also for careers in biomedical research, food biotechnological, pharmaceutical/nutraceuticals industries and management positions with the aim of improving food and health systems in Africa.

He admits that Covid 19 has greatly impacted on his academic and social life. It has changed how he works and spend his extra time, which inevitably has impacted his studies. Delivery of some of his laboratory reagents have been delayed. He has also been required to work from home or in the laboratory in shifts. More recently he was forced to quarantine for almost two weeks after a lab mate tested positive for Covid 19. Further, opportunities for conferences and seminars to present his research findings are now limited.  The limited time with his supervisor, having fitness rooms closed and sports activities cancelled has had a toll on him and many other students. These have delayed his experiments and changed his day-to-day routine hence impacting on my PhD progress.

Based on his experience, he would advise the more recent RSIF scholars to ensure that they commence their matching discussions with IPIs as soon as possible, i.e. when the student joins the RSIF funded PhD program to eliminate major proposal amendments upon transitioning to the IPI.

Contact Mr. Humphrey Andalo Mabwi

Technology and education are the foundation to bettering life in society

According to the Gender strategy of the Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund (RSIF), the program has set an ambitious target for women’s representation among its PhD scholars (50%) based on a commitment to gender and social inclusion and excellence in Aplied Sciences Engineering and Technology (ASET) fields to support Africa’s socio-economic transformation. Enhancing gender inclusiveness in the sciences will require significant investment and deliberate efforts at various levels by various actors, including by universities, governments, and other institutions. However, the important payoffs from this investment justify the costs: removing existing barriers to women’s entry and advancement in ASET fields will increase substantially the number of intelligent, talented people making important scientific innovations. To date, since the award of the first scholarships in 2018, RSIF has awarded a total of 184 PhD scholarships, 71 of these going to female scholars, representing 39 percent of the total scholarships. In an interview with RSIF Manager Dr Moses Osiru, he shares about Fund’s tremendous growth over the past two years.

During the 12th RSIF Monthly Webinar Series held on 9th June 2021, RSIF hosted Ms. Aicha Evans, CEO of ZOOX an American autonomous vehicle technology Company which is head quartered in California, to a chat on “Women Leading in Science and Emerging Technologies”. icipe’s scientist and postdoctoral Fellow  Dr Fathiya M. Khamis moderated the conversation, which was attended by RSIF PhD scholars, RSIF host Universities, International partners, World Bank group representatives including Diariétou Gaye the Vice President and World Bank Group Corporate Secretary and ZOOX innovators. The vote of thanks to Ms. Aicha was given by Cohort one, RSIF PhD Scholar, Fatoumata Thiam from Senegal who is undertaking valuable research in designing self-optimized irrigation in the Sahel area based on the Internet of Things at the University of Gaston Berger (UGB).

In the chat below, Ms. Aicha answers some of the fundamental questions on why Science and emerging technologies should matter to everyone but especially to women.

Q. Why should Science and emerging ttechnologies matter to Women?

A. Oh, you know, Women are kind of the core of society, we make a lot of things possible, we also have the population. I think that some of the experiences that happen though growing up as women and expectations that are set on us, actually are very very conducive to technology. I do not believe in technology for the sake of geeking out, I believe in technology for the sake of really helping the world. That is what technology has done for thousands of years and will continue to do, and I think that women can bring the aspect of solving problems for society and advancing society as opposed to just geeking out when it comes to technology. The other thing is, I truly believe that we experience a lot of things at a young age from a societal standpoint, that if we apply technology to that, everybody meaning, men, women, however you identify yourself, will all benefit and this is something I am passionate about and committed to.

Q. What inspired you to get into science, engineering career path?

A. Well, very early on in my career, I could see the difference of when you have a lot of technology verses when you don’t have a lot of technology. Whether it is through telecommunication, when I was bouncing between Paris and Dakar, and just the ability to remain in touch with my friends. I know everybody has smart phones right now, that’s not the way it was back then. Back then there was a little box with a handset and rotary phone. It was super expensive. And so, in terms of hacking my basic phones to be able to stay in contact with people, it wasn’t hacking so I could be known as a hacker, it was really in service of staying in touch with my friends.

Second of all, when I looked at education, when I looked at just life in Darker, education is really part of the core of the society in Senegal. But still I could see like living in France and seeing what technology was making possible. I was very lucky and fortunate at a young age to be in a situation where I could travel and see a lot of the world, and you could see that basically Technology and education are the foundation to bettering life in society no matter where you are. And it doesn’t have to be the same kind of education. For example, e-commerce being born or spearheaded in Kenya was not surprising. I love the creativity of saying no, we are not going to replicate the backing infrastructure as it is known in the rest of the world, we are going to leapfrog and figure out another way to distribute money inside of the country and so e-commerce and the technology around that was born.

When it comes to technology there are usually two phases; there is an inflection phases where a wave is being born. Think about computers, telecommunication, cellular technology, the smart phone, robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) or exploit phases where the inflection point has already happened, and you are just basically milking the situation and are creating derivatives at iterating. You are all getting educated at a time of an inflection point. What is happening through computers, AI, robotics? These are technological inflection points that are going to affect every aspect of life, from transportation, agriculture, medicine, banking like what is happening to crypto for example and you all get to participate in that. Pick your field and make the world better. I do not know what could be more exciting. And as women, you have an advantage, you see societal things that others don’t, and you have the opportunity to ride this, make the way, do things that are unimaginable today, take advantage of it.

Q. Do you think STEM fields are at a disadvantage because of the limited involvement of women?

A. We should turn it from a challenge to an opportunity. By the way, it starts very early on when you just watch kids in elementary school. We need to demystify STEM. We really do. It is almost like by making it so special, we are already telling young girls, oh it is not for you or it is going to be difficult and so on. We need to look at how we are teaching STEM, and early on sort of help young girls see that this is not about being the special one or the geeky one or ‘you are like the boys’. This is a tool or and an opportunity to basically solve the problem whichever one you want to solve. And to grow up and make a good living, because independence has never been a bad thing. I think that there are a lot of things we do very unconsciously in language, how we talk about it, how we even reward young girls who are doing well, and to me the demystification and democratisation of STEM is absolutely critical. The world bank and all these organisations should look at it from that standpoint and encourage the numbers. Once you go through that and see what is possible, you don’t have to convince people anymore because they see the value and human beings are driven by value.  There is a shortage, we make it too difficult and too special today and we need to change our mindset including how we talk about, how make it available, how we present it. I would live the first experience of a young girl with math to be around solving problem as  opposed to learn the methodology, learn this equation, the stress of your multiplication tables. Let us start with what becomes possible, and then from there, the kids will say well, STEM is making that possible and then I think we will increase the numbers dramatically.

Around the world, let us apply STEM to the local problems and the local opportunities. Let us use local event, problems, things that people can relate to and then STEM attaches to the emotion of the person, and I think great things will happen.

Q. If you were to sum up, based on your career and experiences, what two messages would you give that have been instrument to you as a successful science leader.

A. I would use three if I may.

First of all, Demystify, you are the boss of you, demystify! don’t let anybody define things for you. You define things, you define people, you happened to things.

Second of all, be resilient. Look, one days maybe I will write a book or something, I think we tend to focus on the destination once we have already arrived, and we don’t look at the Journey and the ups and downs. I wasn’t born with the God given right to achieve what I have achieved, and by the way, I have a lot more that I want to achieve. Be resilient and understand that it is a Journey. Successes are supposed be celebrated, failures are supposed to be acknowledged, understood and learning applied and then we move on to the next things. And by the way, if you are not failing, you are not doing anything meaningful, you are not finding root.

Last but not least, have some fun, enjoy the journey. We are so serious about things, I promise you, you all have long lives ahead of you, by and large, when you look at the normal distribution of the curve. You will have ups and downs and joys and failures. And by the way if you don’t have failures, you also cannot enjoy the successes.

Q. The leaky pipe for women starts right from lower levels of education and through to higher education, I think especially in Africa thereby reducing the numbers in science significantly, what do you think are the key differences, if any, for women perusing science careers in the global South Vis-a vis the global North

A. The global north is a little bit ahead but let us not exaggerate it, it’s not like they are doing super well. Every time I look at “diversity and inclusion” we seem to be stuck at 20-25% women in the North and so it is not like they are doing awesome. Now, we should take some learnings from that and we should accelerate. When it comes to Women or Girls and STEM, we should focus on the person, there is no question about it, but we should also focus on the value system and society. I think that having people, teachers, educated family members, explain in a positive non-arrogant way, to the units of family and the units of society how beneficial it will be for society at large, for girls and Women to be in STEM, is really important. Because you do need a support system. I have had very tough patches in my career or actually even as a student, as a teenage and then as a young adult, that if I didn’t have a support system that made it okay and that sponsored me that was there for me, I don’t think I wouldn’t have made it. So that expression that ‘it takes a village………’. I think we are focusing a lot on the individual and not on the village. We need to focus more on the village, such that the village has a vested interest in the individuals staying in STEM.

For more information and the engagement with Ms. Aicha, Please Listen to the webinar recording through this access Link and Passcode: Z00XRS1FRec*