Making a splash: Africa's new maths institute is housed in a seafront hotel in Cape Town. Credit: AIMS

More than 100 academics from around the world have volunteered to lecture at a pan-African postgraduate mathematics institute that opens its doors in Cape Town, South Africa, this week.

The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) will fill an important gap in Africa's education system, says Neil Turok, a cosmologist at the University of Cambridge, UK, and one of the institute's founders.

AIMS will recruit teaching expertise from around the world to provide free postgraduate diploma courses, which will include options in topics such as bioinformatics and fluid mechanics, as well as pure and applied mathematics.

“I hope to gain the knowledge to allow me to contribute to the development of my country and Africa as a whole,” says Justin Bazimaziki from Rwanda, one of the first 30 students from 15 countries to win a place at the institute.

AIMS has not been expensive to set up, Turok says. It will house students and staff in a donated former hotel at the unfashionable end of Cape Town's seafront. The library is stocked with donated books, and lecturers from universities worldwide will give 4–8 weeks of their time to teach classes.

The International Council of Scientific Unions — a confederation of the world's main scientific societies — has contributed US$150,000 to help get the project off the ground, and charities, corporations and the South African government will pay the institute's estimated $500,000 annual running costs.

The institute's founders are aware that its graduates may choose to leave Africa once their training is complete. But Bazimaziki, who travelled for a week to Cape Town to enrol, says that he, for one, will stay. “I don't know at what level I can contribute to my country's development. But I'm going to make an effort,” he says.