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Mauritius’s President Vows To Focus On Science Diplomacy

Posted: Jul 30, 2015 at 12:05 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Mauritius’s incoming president, scientist Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, has pledged to target science diplomacy and to export the island’s “good practices” in research.

The government proposed Gurib-Fakim as the new president on 1 June, just days after then-president Rajkeswur Purryag resigned. The parliament confirmed her appointment this week.

Gurib-Fakim is a chemistry researcher with a focus on medicinal plants. In an interview with SciDev.Net, she admits she has little political experience.

“This may be one of the reasons why [the government] chose me,” she said, explaining that the role is “apolitical”. In Mauritius, the president acts as a representative and does not belong to any political party.

As head of state, Gurib-Fakim plans to use her science background to boost science diplomacy in international negotiations and support research-based businesses in Mauritius.

“I’ve been an entrepreneur since I left academia,” she says.

Between 2004 and 2010, Gurib-Fakim was dean of the University of Mauritius’s science faculty, then pro vice-chancellor for teaching and learning. Since 2011, she has been managing director of the Centre for Phytotherapy Research (CEPHYR), a private laboratory that studies active ingredients from plants. She is planning to continue being involved with the centre during her presidential term.

Gurib-Fakim wants to push for the development of bioparks and technology centres “to create wealth and jobs for young people”.

“Mauritius is a small country, but with lots of good practices to export,” including science, she says, adding that the country needs stronger representation in international forums at both the African and global level.

Gurib-Fakim earned a PhD in chemistry from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom in 1987, and has worked in Mauritius ever since. Among other prizes, she received the L’Oréal-UNESCO Women in Science Award for Africa in 2007.

Romain Murenzi, Executive Director of The World Academy of Sciences, says Gurib-Fakim’s appointment is a testament to her knowledge and the respect for her advice “at the highest level”.