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UFS mathematician wins another international award

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First UNESCO-Al Fozan International Prize
First UNESCO-Al Fozan International Prize

Prof Abdon Atangana, Professor of Applied Mathematics in the Institute for Groundwater Studies (IGS) at the University of the Free State (UFS), was one of five young scientists who was awarded the first UNESCO-Al Fozan International Prize for the Promotion of Young Scientists in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

The ceremony took place last month (19 June 2023) at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France. Each winner received a medal and $50,000 in prize money.

Prof Atangana says he received this award due to his contribution to mathematics and applications, fractional differential and integral calculus with nonsingular and nonlocal kernel, fractal-fractional differential and integral calculus.

“I have been promoting STEM in several countries of the Global South. I feel proud because, 2 500 candidates were selected worldwide, 200 shortlisted and five were selected at the end. I was chosen in mathematics to represent my continent of Africa, while the other four laureates were selected in engineering and science,” says Prof Atangana.

According to the UNESCO website, the prize, which was established in 2021 in partnership with Saudi Arabia’s Al–Fozan Foundation, aims to strengthen STEM research, STEM education and international cooperation to confront the global challenges addressed by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The prize will give recognition to the achievements of young people that are conducive to socio-economic transformation and development on a global scale while also increasing the interest of young people, particularly girls and women, in science so as to promote gender equality, scientific literacy and the choice of a scientific career.

It is awarded every two years to five laureates from the five geographic regions of UNESCO (Africa, Arab states, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and North America and Latin America and the Caribbean), its purpose to encourage youth participation in STEM, in particular women and girls, so as to promote gender equality, scientific literacy and the choice of a scientific career.

Prof Atangana, who is the current chairperson of the African Mathematical Union Commission for Research and Innovations (AMU-CRIMS), said during his speech that Africa was a temple of mathematics and that great mathematicians including Euclid and Pythagoras, had visited Africa.

“Today, many young talented Africans are moving primarily to the West in search of greener pastures. The question I pose is, what happened? Briefly, the strategies utilised during the colonisation era made Africans lose self-belief and self-esteem and become dominated nations.

“I thank God that, I, today, as a child born and raised in Africa, I went to France for the first time, not in search of greener pastures but because the work I did in Africa with no external support, attracted global attention of researchers from all fields of science, technology, and engineering.

This is a clear indication that Africans can stay in Africa, work hard and evolve and develop their continent without additional support or compensation. I will stay in Africa, work very hard to pave the way, and lay a concrete foundation for the next generation through God’s grace,” he ended his speech.

Prof Vasu Reddy, Deputy Vice Chancellor: Research and Internationalisation at the UFS says this is timely award in the wake of Vision 130 to celebrate Prof Atangana’s global recognition as a young scientist.

“A young mathematician of exceptional dedication and talent, Abdon has been a real trailblazer in his field. The award is richly deserved and reflects well not only on Abdon but on all his colleagues in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, the University of the Free State, and especially the African continent.

We are immensely proud of this global recognition of a formidable young African scientist. He is a role model who inspires a new generation of scholars. An outstanding achievement for an outstanding individual,” says Prof Reddy.

This award is another testament to the great work Prof Atangana has been doing over the years. Not only has he been a fellow of the World Academia of Science since 2022, but he is winner of the World Academy of Sciences Award for Mathematics (TWAS – Mohammad A Hamdan Award) in 2020.

The other winners are Dr Federico Ariel (Argentina); Prof Qiaomei Fu (China); Dr Hesham Omran and Dr Jelena Vladic (Serbia).

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