Women who manage to make their mark in the research world are in short supply, particularly in Africa. Very few, after clearing all the various obstacles, choose to return to their countries of origin, to become involved in the life there, while still enjoying an enviable international reputation … And yet Ameenah Gurib Fakim is one of those women. This world-famous chemist has succeeded in carving out a name for herself thanks to her writing, research and action. As a result of her pioneering role, and championing a people-oriented science, she is a valued friend of the CTA.
A pioneer operating in several fields
Her innovative talent takes an amazingly wide variety of forms, as is evident from the portrait of her the CTA published in 2014, as part of a series of Life Stories of African Women and Young Professionals in Science. Ameenah Gurib Fakim became the first female professor to be appointed by the University of Mauritius, the first dean of the faculty of science (she became involved in a completely new scientific field, phytochemistry) and the first female vice-chancellor. She has now been elected as the first female President of the Republic. Her courage in daring to explore unchartered territories in order to move things forwards may serve as an example for many people not only in the scientific community but in many other walks of life as well.
Pulling science out of the lab
Ameenah Gurib Fakim is also living proof that scientists should not remain holed up in their ivory towers but, on the contrary, they have a social role to play. In an article entitled "Science for a social purpose – A new agenda for new times", published on the CTA's Knowledge for development site, Ameenah Gurib Fakim talks about how to harness the power of science and how to transform this knowledge into commercially viable products and enterprises.
After completing her studies in Europe and the United States (in particular, she was awarded the title of doctor Honoris Causa by the Paris Sorbonne University), she could have built her career in the countries of the northern hemisphere but decided to settle down in her homeland, Mauritius, with, she is proud to say, its rich one-of-a-kind biodiversity. She founded the CEPHYR company (subsequently CIDP) in 2009, which carries out clinical trials for the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries.
An example for young people and women in general
The researcher takes her role model duties very seriously and is deeply committed to what they entail. As an example, in 2013 she chaired the panel for the 3rd "Africa-wide Women and Young Professionals in Science Competitions: Feeding 1 billion in Africa in a changing world", with the awards being presented during the FARA General Assembly in July 2013.
Now having reached the peak of her career, she is contributing to the attainment of a new development agenda for Africa. For example, she took part in the CTA international forum on "Unleashing Science, Technology and Innovation for Food and Nutrition Security", held in the Netherlands in October 2014. Her message features four key recommendations:
- capitalise on the momentum gained in global environmental and conservation movements;
- emphasise maintenance and sustainable use of "natural capital"
- mobilise cutting-edge knowledge; and
- forge partnerships anchored in the common good for the benefit of all. It is also underpinned by the requirement to pay respect and be attentive to local communities and their expertise.