MIT News –
In just 10 months in office as the Republic of Sierra Leone’s fifth democratically elected president, Julius Maada Bio has already laid out and begun to implement one of Africa’s most ambitious agendas, aimed at transforming the impoverished nation into a major hub for technology and innovation. In a visit to MIT on Thursday, he stressed the importance of partnerships and alliances in bringing this vision to reality, and talked about some initial collaborations with MIT that are already underway, with more under discussion.
The visit, which included a delegation of officials from Sierra Leone and continued on to a series of meetings at Harvard University, was initiated by MIT alumnus David Moinina Sengeh, SM ’12, PhD ’16, who was appointed last year by President Bio to head the newly created Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI) and to serve as chief innovation officer.
The visit included a tour of MIT’s Media Lab, where Sengeh earned his master’s and doctorate degrees. The tour was led by the lab’s founding director Nicholas Negroponte and included visits to several different research groups. The Media Lab has already signed a memorandum of understanding with the Sierra Leone government, initiating a series of collaborations including opportunities for visiting students and joint research projects between MIT and universities in Sierra Leone.
In introducing President Bio for a public talk before the tour, MIT Vice President for Open Learning Sanjay Sarma described the recently elected president’s “very ambitious and inspiring national development plan” for the next five years, “which focuses on ‘human capital’ development, [including] health and education, a diversified and resilient green economy, strengthening an inclusive, just, peaceful state, and a competitive economy with a well-developed infrastructure.”