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African computer scientists recognized

African computer scientists recognized

Microsoft Research, TWAS and AAS reward three African computer scientists showing potential to accelerate economic development in Africa.

African computer scientists recognizedNairobi, 7 December 2009. Three African scientists have been awarded the first TWAS-AAS-Microsoft Award for Young Scientists. The award, funded by Microsoft Research, recognizes the outstanding work of African scientists that has – or promises to have – a positive impact in the developing world. The award ceremony will take place at the African Academy of Sciences in Nairobi, Kenya, on 7 December, during the opening session of the Young Scientists Conference organized by the TWAS Regional Office for Sub-Saharan Africa (TWAS-ROSSA). Each winner will receive a cash prize of EUR 7,000 (approx. USD 10,500).

"To achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, Africa must create knowledge and skills-based wealth,” said Cheick Modibo Diarra, Microsoft’s Chairman for Africa. “The prosperity of the continent is dependent on African small and medium enterprises relying on results from research and development. They can then develop locally relevant solutions and value-added opportunities that will lead to the sustainable development of Africa. Microsoft applauds the three winners on their achievement."

The winners are:

  • Youcef Bentoutou from Algeria, whose focus is image processing and computer vision, and developing applications in medical imaging and remote sensing.
  • Omar Fakih Hamad from Tanzania, who is constructing multimedia data communication systems and multicast technology for education and community development.
  • Tshilidzi Marwala from South Africa, who is studying the application of computational intelligence to engineering, finance, and medicine.

"TWAS and AAS recognize that ICTs are essential enabling technologies for both increasing scientific capacity and achieving the MDGs,” said Mohamed H.A. Hassan, Executive Director of TWAS and President of AAS. "We anticipate that the work of the three winners will make significant contributions to science and development in Africa in the years ahead."

Andrew Herbert, Managing Director of Microsoft Research Cambridge, added, "It is encouraging to see the high calibre of candidates in our first-ever competition. Computer science has a key role to play in tackling some of the developing world’s greatest challenges, from education to infrastructure, and it’s vital that we support and encourage the scientists and researchers who are working to address these issues."

For information about the TWAS-AAS-Microsoft Award for Young Scientists, see this page.

About the winners

  • Youcef Bentoutou is a researcher at the Centre des Techniques Spatiales in Arzew, Algeria. He received his bachelor's, MA and PhD degrees in electrical and electronics engineering at the University of Djillali Liabè in Sidi Bel Abbès, Algeria. His research interests include image processing and computer vision, with applications in medical imaging, remote sensing and satellite digital systems. He is currently developing image registration methods for possible implementation on field-programmable gate arrays.
  • Omar Fakih Hamad is a coordinator of postgraduate studies and lecturer of telecommunications engineering in the Department of Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering, in the College of Engineering and Technology, at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He received his BSc and MSc degrees in electronics and communications engineering at the Birla Institute of Technology in Mesra, Ranchi, India, and a PhD in computer and information engineering-multimedia data communications at Chonnam National University, Gwangju, South Korea. His research interests include multimedia data communication systems and multicast technology, telecommunications, and engineering and computer applications in education and community development.
  • Tshilidzi Marwala is the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa. He was previously a full professor of electrical engineering and the Carl and Emily Fuchs Chair of Systems and Control Engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand. He is the youngest recipient of the Order of Mapungubwe and was the first African engineer to be awarded the President Award by the National Research Foundation of South Africa. He holds a Master of Engineering from the University of Pretoria and a PhD in Engineering from the University of Cambridge. He was a post-doctoral research associate at the Imperial College London, a visiting fellow at Harvard University, and a visiting fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge. His research interests include the application of computational intelligence to engineering, computer science, finance, social science and medicine. He has supervised 40 masters and PhD students and has published over 200 papers in journals such as the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Journal, proceedings and book chapters.

About the awarding institutions

  • About Microsoft Research. Founded in 1991, Microsoft Research is dedicated to conducting both basic and applied research in computer science and software engineering. Its goals are to enhance the user experience on computing devices, reduce the cost of writing and maintaining software, and invent novel computing technologies. Researchers focus on more than 55 areas of computing and collaborate with leading academic, government and industry researchers to advance the state of the art in such areas as graphics, speech recognition, user-interface research, natural language processing, programming tools and methodologies, operating systems and networking, and the mathematical sciences.
    Microsoft Research currently employs more than 800 people in six labs located in Redmond, Wash.; Cambridge, Mass.; Silicon Valley, Calif.; Cambridge, England; Beijing, China; and Bangalore, India. Microsoft Research collaborates openly with colleges and universities worldwide to enhance the teaching and learning experience, inspire technological innovation, and broadly advance the field of computer science. More information can be found at
  • About TWAS. TWAS, the academy of sciences for the developing world, is the pre-eminent science academy for scientists from the developing world. It was founded in 1983 in Trieste, Italy, by a distinguished group of scientists under the leadership of Nobel laureate Abdus Salam of Pakistan, and was officially launched as the ‘Third World Academy of Sciences’ by the Secretary General of the United Nations in 1985. At present, TWAS has 950 members in over 90 countries. For more information, see
  • About AAS. The African Academy of Sciences (AAS) is an Africa-wide scientific organisation that honours internationally renowned African scientists and encourages the development of research and technology throughout the continent. It was founded in 1985 in Trieste, Italy, with 33 founding fellows. Its membership now has over 160 members, covering 28 African countries and including five foreign fellows. For more information, see