CHANGE is obviously sweeping across the African continent. Prominent scientist Ameenah Gurib-Fakim was Thursday approved by the parliament of Mauritius as the Indian Ocean island nation’s new president, making her the first woman to hold the ceremonial position.
The Speaker of the Parliament Maya Hanoomanjee, who is also the first woman to hold that post, said the overwhelming approval of Gurib-Fakim’s designation was an historic day for the country. The opposition also supported her appointment, making the vote a mere formality. Her inauguration ceremony will take place on Friday, officials said. She becomes the first female president of the island, which gained independence from Britain in 1968 and replaced Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state in 1992.
What fascinates me about Mauritius.
- Mauritius is one of the richest and LEAST CORRUPT countries in Africa, a middle-income nation of some 1.3 million people with a per capita GDP of just over $9,000 (7,200 euros).
- Mauritius used to be dependent on sugar exports. But over the last two decades, the island has built up a strong outsourcing and financial services sector, and an important tourism industry.
- The incoming president, Gurib-Fakim is currently director of the Mauritius-headquartered Centre for Phytotherapy Research (CEPHYR), which carries out research on plants for use in cosmetics, nutrition and therapy. She is well read- An alumni of the Universities of Exeter and Surrey in Britain. She is also the chair of organic chemistry at Mauritius University, and has worked with the World Bank and other international institutions.
- She has pledged to target Science diplomacy and to export the island’s “good practices” in research.
- She is a chemistry researcher with a focus on medicinal plants. She believes she was chosen by the parliament because 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.
- 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 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”.