To promote sustainability in Africa: Scientists from TU Ilmenau push cooperation with Rwanda

As part of a project funded by the German government and DAAD, researchers from TU Ilmenau traveled to Africa to exchange ideas with colleagues at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in Rwanda. The goal of the cooperation is to optimize water, energy and agricultural production there with a focus on sustainability.

AIMS Rwanda
Prof. Abebe Geletu (r.), Humboldt Research Chair at AIMS Rwanda, welcomed the delegation of German researchers led by Prof. Pu Li (l.) to Rwanda. Together they participated in the "Systems Optimization and Artificial Intelligence Innovations for Sustainability" workshop.

Research thrives on exchange and dialogue. In order to facilitate a constructive discourse and to set the starting point of the university cooperation between TU Ilmenau and the "African Institute for Mathematical Sciences" (AIMS) in Rwanda, seven scientists of the Process Optimization Group of TU Ilmenau and Dr. Divas Karimanzira of Fraunhofer IOSB-AST flew to the capital of Rwanda, Kigali, at the end of August for a two-day workshop on "Systems Optimization and Artificial Intelligence Innovations for Sustainability Systems of Africa". This cooperation is sponsored by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH) and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) with funds from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The aim of the DAAD project is to develop mathematical optimization approaches to promote the sustainability of water, energy and agricultural products in Africa.

At the beginning of the workshop, the President of the AIMS Center, Prof. Sam Yala, and the Humboldt Research Chair at AIMS Rwanda, Prof. Abebe Geletu, welcomed all participants, including the delegation of German researchers led by Prof. Pu Li, Dr. Edo Abraham from TU Delft, and Rwandan students and industry partners, with an Ethiopian proverb: "When spider webs unite, they can bind a lion," to illustrate the power of collaborative research. During the workshop, the international speakers presented their latest developments in power and water distribution systems, control engineering, and mathematical optimization. The topics are of great interest for Africa's sustainable development and the audience raised many questions and comments that led to rich discussions, especially with the industrial partners, also during the coffee breaks and outside the workshop.

On the third day after the scientific workshop, participants visited AIMS Rwanda and African Leadership University (ALU) to tour their facilities, meet the students and their research topics, and answer their questions. Prof. Li reports his impressions on site:

The visit to these universities left the impression of advanced educational institutions with students who are ready to solve complex interdisciplinary problems and conduct in-depth research.

The partner university, AIMS Rwanda, has a total of 75 researchers in four research chairs (data science, systems optimization, discrete mathematics, and climate modeling) and a new cohort of 60 master's students from 22 different African countries.

"Successful exchange of experience"

After the workshop, the participants visited a local hydropower plant, where an employee gave a technical tour of the turbines and motors, as well as the control room. Through further discussions, the staff member received some suggestions from the researchers on how to optimize the operation of the power plant. The last place the researchers visited on the day of departure was the genocide memorial in the capital Kigali, where the facts about many victims of the genocide against the Tutsi were displayed. Visiting this memorial reminded them of the far-reaching consequences hatred can lead to and why it should never be tolerated, Prof. Li said:

The trip to Rwanda was both academically and culturally rich, with a full program, many discussions, and a successful exchange of experiences. We sincerely thank the DAAD for their support and were very happy to have met our partners from AIMS in Rwanda and to have welcomed them now in Ilmenau in early October to jointly host a workshop on "Introduction to Chance Constrained Optimization".

The TU Ilmenau welcomed the DAAD staff member responsible for the project and researchers from other disciplines to this workshop. In addition to presentations by Prof. Li and Prof. Geletu, there was a tour of the laboratories of the Process Optimization Group. Furthermore, first cooperation talks were held with the Fraunhofer Institute IOSB-AST about further project ideas for system optimization in relation to sustainability in Africa. The DAAD scholarship holders will now stay at TU Ilmenau for the current winter semester to attend subject-specific courses and to continue working on their research.


Prof. Pu Li

Head of the Process Optimization Group