Young Scientists

Komminist Weldemariam : "A lot of people expect everything to be like Europe in Africa"

Coming back to Africa after a PhD does not necessarily mean to work in a university or in the public sector. Komminist Weldemariam works for IBM Research in Kenya, and according to him, can not dream to have a better situation.

Who are you?

My name is Komminist Weldemariam… I work for IBM research based in an african lab and I am a senior scientist responsible artificial intelligence and blockchain research. I am originally from Ethiopia and I call now Nairobi and Ottawa my home.

Why did you go to Europe for your PhD?

My move to different locations is really driven by a curiosity to learn more. And also, to know people culture because it is always important, I like to embed in my scientific area.

Why did you decided to come back to Africa?

A lot of people are leveling Africa from a perspective of: "Africa is this, Africa is that"; from a negative perspective. Education aspect, health aspect, transportation, trade, financial, fintech… But all this actual challenges and negative connotations to me, as I live with these problems, are opportunities for me. Because the problems we live in are opportunities for me and for other fellow Africans, who actually come with new way of facing those problems, so I look at them from the perspective of opportunity. And also, the impact if you solve one of these problems, maybe a fraction of this problem for example in healthcare means actually saving lives in Africa. So, if you address for example the education problem, it is actually creating quality education for individuals and also individuals to be competent worldwide.

What would you say to young African PhD candidates who want to return in Africa?

Don’t get me wrong, there are some difficulties from oppression perspective, from the immigration perspective, and this all are human made problems. I am not worried about them. They can be solved easily. The issue here is a lot of people are coming back to Africa expect everything to be like Europe. That mentality is the only thing we should adjust. If you adjust that one, treat Africa like Africa, treat the problem as a problem and be part of the solution. That is what is important. All this others man made problems can be fixed easily. So personally, I am enjoying, I am really happier than any time in my life.

Interview by Anthony Audureau


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