MeRck Foundation conducts 3rd UNESCO-MeRck Africa Research Summit-MARS 2017 in partnership with the Office of the President of Mauritius and their Ministry of Health

Merck Foundation conducts 3rd UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit-MARS 2017 - Mauritius

  • Merck Foundation partners with the Government of Mauritius, UNESCO, African Union and African Governments for their annual UNESCO-MARS to contribute to empowering Women and Youth in STEM.

  • Third edition UNESCO-MARS 2017 continues to build Research Capacity in Africa with special focus on Cancer and Vaccines Development.

  • Winners of the 2017 MARS "Best Young African Researchers Award" and "Best African Women Researchers Award" to be announced

Port Louis, Mauritius November 28, 2017 - As part of Merck STEM program For Women and Youth, Merck Foundation, a non-profit organization and a subsidiary of Merck KGaA Germany conducts the 3rd edition of their annual "UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit" on the 28th and 29th of November 2017 under the patronage of the President of the Republic of Mauritius, Her Excellency Mrs. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim and in partnership with Government of Mauritius, UNESCO, African Union and African Governments.

The President of the Republic of Mauritius, Her Excellency Mrs. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim emphasized during the inauguration; "We are very happy to partner with the Merck Foundation and UNESCO to empower women and youth in STEM. The UNESCO - Merck Africa Research Summit is a valuable opportunity for all those engaged and interested in health research in Africa to learn about the full spectrum of ground-breaking scientific research currently underway, and prepare the road ahead in Africa’s development as an international hub for research and scientific innovation."

H.E. Mrs. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim-President of Mauritius at UNESCO Merck Africa Research Summit

Speaking on Merck Foundation's support for Research Capacity building in Africa, "We are keen to support young gifted researchers by passing on the knowledge and experience we have gathered over the 350 years of Merck history. Through our "Merck STEM Program" we aim to promote women and youth in scientific research through providing them with training opportunities to advance their capacity with special focus on Cancer care." Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of Executive Board and Family Board of E.Merck KG & Chairman of Board of Trustees of Merck Foundation emphasized.

Prof.Dr.Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp-Chairman of Executive Board & Family Board of E.Merck KG at UNESCO Merck Africa Research Summit, Mauritius

The Head of State of The Republic of Mauritius, H.E. Mrs Ameenah Gurib-Fakim emphasized during the inauguration; "We are very happy to partner with UNESCO and Merck Foundation to empower Women and youth in Research, this very valuable for our country as it aligns with our government strategy to build Research capacity and promote women in STEM."

Speaking on Merck Foundation's support for Research Capacity building in Africa, "We are keen to support young gifted researchers by passing on the knowledge and experience we have gathered over the 350 years of Merck history. Through our "Merck STEM Program" we aim to promote women and youth in scientific research through providing them with training opportunities to advance their capacity with special focus on Cancer care." Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of Executive Board and Family Board of E.Merck KG & Chairman of Board of Trustees of Merck Foundation emphasized.

From left to right: Mr. Getachew Engida, Deputy Director General of UNESCO; Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of the Executive Board of E. Merck KG; President of the Republic of Mauritius, Her Excellency Mrs Ameenah Grurib-Fakim (centre) and Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation follow proceedings at the inauguration of the UNESCO Merck Africa Research Summit on November 28, 2017.

Dr.Hon.Mohammad Husnoo - Minister of Health & Quality of Life, Mauritius at UNESCO Merck Africa Research Summit

"For the third year, Merck Foundation continues their long term commitment towards building Research Capacity in Africa. Supporting the African research community, with special focus on Women and Youth is one of our most important objectives, this year in partnership with The Head of State of Mauritius together with African Governments, we focus on "The Role of Scientific Research in responding to Cancer and Vaccines Development - two critical challenges in Africa". said Dr. Rasha Kelej, Merck Foundation's Chief Executive Officer.

Dr. Rasha Kelej - CEO of Merck Foundation at UNESCO Merck Africa Research Summit, Mauritius

UNESCO-MARS 2017 was officially inaugurated by; Her Excellency Mrs. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, President of the Republic of Mauritius and Dr. the Hon. Mohammad Anwar Husnoo, Mauritius' Minister of Health and Quality of Life.

Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of the Executive Board of E. Merck KG, President of the Republic of Mauritius, Her Excellency Mrs. Ameenah Grurib-Fakim (centre) and Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation follow proceedings at the inauguration of the UNESCO Merck Africa Research Summit on November 28, 2017.

Mr. Getachew Engida-Deputy Director-General,UNESCO at UNESCO Merck Africa Research Summit,Mauritius

Merck Africa Research Summit - MARS Awards 2017
During the Summit Award ceremony, five winners from Mauritius, Cameroon, Nigeria, Rwanda and Mauritius were recognized and awarded respectively for their excellence in research under the category of 'Best African Women Researchers Award. Furthermore, three winners from South Africa, Senegaland Botswana were presented with the 'Best Young African Researchers Award' during the 3rd UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit held in Mauritius.

For the first Time, an additional three female researchers from Mauritius, were presented with special "MARS Best Mauritian Women Researchers Award", "this is to contribute to the Mauritian government efforts to promote women in STEM with special focus on scientific research in cancer" Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck foundation added.

After previous successful editions of the Summit, UNESCO and Merck Foundation join hands for the third time to respond to Africa's STISA (Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa) 2024, reinforcing the axiom that only through building local capacities can Africa rise again to becoming an equal partner in advancing STEM research and education.

To this, UNESCO-MARS 2017 brings together African researchers to discuss the generation, sharing and dissemination of research data and to prepare for the road ahead in developing Africa as an international hub for research excellence and scientific innovation. These include researchers from Francophone countries such as Benin, Senegal, Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Congo, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burkina Faso, and Anglophone countries such as Kenya, Mauritius, South Africa, Ghana, Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan, Egypt, South Sudan and Ethiopia.

More than 60% of young African Researchers attending this year, are women, emphasizing Merck Foundation's long term commitment towards empowering women in STEM with special focus on Scientific Research in Cancer and Vaccines Development.

Key African ministers attending the Summit to participate in the Ministerial Panel
This year's Summit has attracted many African ministers of Health; Education; Science and Technology; Gender and Social Development to participate in the ministerial high level panel which will focus on 'Empowering Women & Youth in STEM - with special focus on Scientific Research - Challenges & Solutions to be considered in the national strategy in developing countries.'

Ministerial Panel 1 - UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit 2017

Ministerial Panel 2 - UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit 2017

Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of the Executive Board of E. Merck KG, President of the Republic of Mauritius, Her Excellency Mrs Ameenah Grurib-Fakim (centre), and Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation pose for a group photo with ministers and dignitaries at the inauguration of the UNESCO Merck Africa Research Summit on November 28, 2017.

The ministers participating in the panel include: Hon. Sarah Opendi Minister of State of Health, Uganda; Hon. Leela Devi Dookun - Luchoomun Minister of Education and Scientific Research, Mauritius; Hon. Dr. George Kronnisanyon Werner Minister of Science and Higher Education, Liberia; Hon. Dr Anwar Husnoo Minister of Health, Mauritius; Hon. Susan Shabangu Minister in the Presidency Responsible for Women, South Africa; Hon. Julia Duncan Cassell, Minister of Gender and Social Development, Liberia; Hon. Chitalu Chilufya, Minister of Health, Zambia; Hon. Malam Adamu Adamu, Minister of Science and Higher Education, Nigeria; Hon. Awut Deng Acuil, Minister of Gender Child and Social Welfare, South Sudan; Hon. Fidelis Macdonald Molao and Deputy Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, Botswana. The panel also includes, Hon. Samuel Mvondo Ayolo, Ambassador of Cameroon to France, and Hon. Christine Nina NIYONSAVYE and Ambassador, Permanent Delegate of Burundi to UNESCO.

From left to right: Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation, President of the Republic of Mauritius, Her Excellency Mrs Ameenah Grurib-Fakim (centre), Mr. Getachew Engida, Deputy Director General of UNESCO at The State House of Mauritius.

President of the Republic of Mauritius, Her Excellency Mrs Ameenah Grurib-Fakim (centre), Mr. Getachew Engida, Deputy Director General of UNESCO and Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation along with the MARS winners 2017 at The State House of Mauritius.

"We have been hosted at the State House of Mauritius. I am very privileged to work closely with such a remarkable woman. A role model for all women and men. I am sure together we will make an impact on empowering women and youth in research to contribute towards the achievement of the sustainable development goals." emphasized Dr Rasha Kelej

Watch Video - Winners of MARS Awards 2017

"I am very proud of our young and women African Researchers. Together with Her Excellency president of Mauritius, Mrs. Ameenah Guraib-Fakim we will contribute towards building research capacity in Africa. It is only the beginning of very fruitful partnership, Dr. Rasha Kelej added.

Meet UNESCO-MARS 2017 Award Winners

MARS Best Young African Researchers Award


1st Place
Suthananda Sunassee,
University of Cape Town, South Africa


2nd Place
Massamba GUEYE
Universite Cheikh Anta Diop de DAKAR, SENEGAL


3rd Place
TAOLO NTLOEDIBE
UNIVERSITY OF BOTSWANA, BOTSWANA

MARS Best African Women Researchers Award


1st Place
Archana Bhaw-Luximon,
Centre for Biomedical and Biomaterials Research Republic of Mauritius


2nd Place
Yolande Ndemanou Feudjio
UNIVERSITY OF DSCHANG, CAMEROON


3rd Place
Folusho Balogun
College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Nigeria


4th Place
UMUHOZA ALICE
​UNIVERSITY OF RWANDA, Rwanda


5th Place
Vidushi Neergheen Bhujun
​University of Mauritius, Republic of Mauritius

MARS Best Mauritian Women Researchers Award


1st Place
Nilufer Jasmine Selimah FAUZEE
​Victoria Hospital, Republic of Mauritius


2nd Place
Rima Beesoo
​University of Mauritius, Republic of Mauritius


3rd Place
Shameem Fawdar
​University of Mauritius, Republic of Mauritius

About Last year MARS Research Awards Winner:
In 2016, five winners from Kenya, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Uganda and Ethiopia were recognized and awarded for their excellence in research under the category of 'Best African Women Researchers Award' and four winners from Botswana, Cameroon, Gambia and Zimbabwe for 'Best Young African Researchers Award' during the 2nd UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This was the first time the 'Best African Women Researchers Award' was launched.

Find out more information about UNESCO MARS 2017

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