Young Scientists

Axel Ngonga : "It is good to be idealistic but..."

Axel Ngonga is a specialist of data sciences. He left Cameroon to obtain his PhD in Germany. Today, he is a researcher at Paderborn University, Germany, and when you ask him about returning to Africa, he is quite moderate.

Who are you?

My name is Axel Ngonga, I am a professor of data science at Paderborn University in Germany. I grew up in Cameroon and did my studies in Leipzig, Germany. Then from Leipzig, I went to Paderborn.

Why did you go to Europe for your PhD?

I studied computer science. Studying this topic in Cameroon would have led to rather theoretical, without much application. I wanted to study so that I could do both, which was barely possible in Cameroon so I chose another university.

Why didn’t you come back after your PhD?

The reason is pretty simple. When you do the type of research I do, you need a lot of resources. My research is in Big Data as we call it now. Thus, I need servers worth approximately 250 000 euros. The majority of the Cameroonian or even African universities would not be able to supply me with this equipment. That is the problem.

Do you have some plans for a return?

It depends how you define return. I like to have several possibilities. But I definitely want to collaborate as much as possible with persons in Africa.

What would you tell to young African PhD candidates in Europe?

It is good to be idealistic for sure, but you have to think about the international research. We want to show a high standard of research. So, you have to be sure you plan your return carefully, including the resources you need. And you must not forget that there are a lot of great minds in Africa. Finding people to work with is not the problem. The problem is the resources. So you have to plan for it.

Interview by Anthony Audureau

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