Speaking at a media briefing in Cape Town, on Sunday, founder and chairperson of the Aims board, Professor Neil Turok said that the first centre would be established in Abuja, Nigeria in July.
Turok explained that Aims Abuja would be a postgraduate centre for mathematics and computational science, similar to the Aims centre in Cape Town. This centre would have a strong engineering focus, including petroleum engineering, materials science and computational science.
It would be a parallel development with the African University of Science and Technology, which was initiated as a World Bank project and cofunded by the African Development Bank and the Nigerian federal and state governments.
Turok said that other centres were planned in Ghana, Madagascar, Sudan, Uganda, Botswana, Egypt, Ethiopia and Rwanda as these countries had good human and natural resources with good prospects of developing into a centre of excellence to the advantage of the local populations, universities and governments.
It was envisaged that three new Aims centres would be opened each year and that each centre would accommodate 50 students a year, with most proceeding to Masters and PhD levels at a partnering university.
The rationale for such an initiative was to develop African human capacity in the crucial area of maths and science.
Turok elaborated that Africa was all too often seen as the ‘basket-case continent', plagued by corruption, war and disease, and a drain on the world's aid resources.
Despite the problems across Africa, the continent had highly motivated young people who were keen to acquire skills and education.
To strengthen Africa's progress towards democracy, the continent urgently needed a community of highly-skilled individuals, creatively applying modern technologies to solve problems and to generate wealth, he said.
Internationally renowned University of Cambridge Professor of Mathematics Stephen Hawking confirmed these objectives and told journalists that the progress that had been made by Aims thus far was startling.
However, Hawking believed that the realm of science now needed an African scientist and it was hoped that this initiative could find the next Einstein from this continent.
In terms of the financing of this initiative, it was anticipated that the cost of supporting 15 centres would be some $150-million over the next five years, which was less than one percent of the aid now given to Africa each year.
"Each fully funded student bursary, covering travel, subsistence, accommodation and medical insurance of about $10 000 a year would be one-fifth of the cost of supporting an African student in Europe or the USA," said Turok.
Aims would seek to raise an endowment to fully support 50 students a year at each of the 15 Aims centres.
To date, this initiative had received considerable support from international blue-chip companies.
In particular, multinational banking and investment firm Barclays intended sponsoring 20 students to attend the Institute to the amount of $400 000 over two years.
Barclays Global Retail and Commercial Banking CE Frits Seegers told journalists that the financial corporate chose to invest in this initiative because it believed in the future of Africa and the development of human capacity on the continent.
Seegers said that this was evidenced by the fact that Barclays had undertaken a significant investment programme in Africa. Barclays employed 130 000 people globally, 55 000 of which were employed in Africa.
In addition to Barclays, PricewaterhouseCoopers, the Anglo American Chairman's Fund, the Virgin Group, and New Star Investments had also committed support, ranging from funding scholarships and computer hardware, to management training, accounting and auditing.
Foundations, scientific societies and institutions like the Ford Foundation, Arcadia, the Victor Rothschild Trust, the Vodafone Foundation, the Nokia Foundation-Africa, the Institute of Physics in the UK, the London Mathematical Society and the International Centre for Theoretical Physics also pledged their support.
Since its establishment in September 2003, Aims had been recruiting students from all over Africa for a ten-month, highly intensive postgraduate programme.
Students were taught widely applicable maths and computing skills, with exposure to many cutting-edge areas of importance in the African context.
Over the past four years, Aims had graduated 160 students from 30 African countries and a further 53 students were currently at the Aims Cape Town campus.