Gipuzkoa Coopera brings together African women researchers and research centers in Gipuzkoa to make Africa’s diverse reality more visible

Published: April 29, 2022

The Department of Culture and Cooperation of the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa has held this morning an informative breakfast to present the program “R&D Research Centers”, a project of Gipuzkoa Coopera in collaboration with the program “Women in Science” of the Women for Africa Foundation.




The aim of the program is to make the talents of African women visible and empower them and to highlight their central role in development processes.

The Department of Culture and Cooperation of the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa held an informative breakfast this morning at the Zenit Hotel in San Sebastian to present the “R&D Research Centers” program, a project of Gipuzkoa Coopera in collaboration with the “Women in Science” program of the Women for Africa Foundation.

This program is linked to the technical exchange with leading African women researchers and heads of departments of research centers in their countries. The program has also counted on the participation of three top-level research centers in Gipuzkoa: Biodonostia, Centro de Física de Materiales (CFM) y Donostia International Phsysic Center (DIPC ).

The “Women in Science” program of the Women for Africa Foundation offers the centers its magnificent social and institutional network in Africa and facilitates the promotion and selection of candidates together with the centers in Gipuzkoa. For its part, the Department of Culture and Cooperation of the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa provides institutional and financial support for the design and implementation of the project.

The purpose of this initiative is threefold; on the one hand, it aims to break the single story still present in our society, which believes that Development Cooperation is welfare. In this regard, the Deputy for Culture and Cooperation, Harkaitz Millan, said that “therefore, working with Gipuzkoan centers that promote both applied scientific research in areas of interest to Basque society and international scientific development, as well as dissemination within the Gipuzkoan society itself, seemed and seems to us an opportunity to create partnerships for development understood as a multifaceted reality”.

The second objective of the project is precisely to break the myth that Africa is a country, since Africa is a continent that has great problems but where there is also excellence, creativity and talent; fundamental axes to achieve the social, political and economic development of the continent. The ultimate goal of the program is to make visible and enhance the talent of African women and highlight the central role of women in development processes.

Silvina Cerveny, Laila Saad, and Olatz Leis, from left to right

The breakfast brought together leading women researchers in their fields. CSIC researcher at the Materials Physics Center Silvina Cerveny, host of Abeer Mohamed, highlighted their collaboration in the study of contaminated water for which they are developing filters against heavy metals. Jorge Sanchez Dolado, from the same Center for Materials Physics and host of Mary Bosede Ogundiran, reported on the project that involves the development of new ecological cements (called geopolymeric) from abundant raw materials in Nigeria, such as deposits of kaolin clays and combustion residues (ashes) of agricultural matter. This kind of geopolymer cements involves a new chemistry with negligible CO2 impact, which is a subject of current research, although the raw materials used in the first world are different.

Jorge Sánchez Dolado

Olatz Leis, Economic-Financial and R&D Project Management Director of the Donostia International Physics Center (DIPC) and Laila Saad, professor and researcher at Beni-Suef University in Egypt, who is currently working at the DIPC on the synthesis of new photovoltaic materials, also took part. Both have highlighted the value of this type of programs as an instrument to weave international collaboration networks, citing as a real example, that DIPC research groups continue to collaborate in the team of Hanan Basioni in Egypt, who came to DIPC in 2018 thanks to the support of the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa through the Women for Africa program. Laila Saad has also shared her first-person experience, thanking the opportunity provided and the willingness of her host Fabienne Barroso from DIPC, who has put her in contact with other local research groups with whom she is already collaborating and whose laboratories she is being able to use. The DIPC is currently hosting Karima Benyahia from Algeria and plans to host three other researchers next year.

Finally, Ana Aiastui, Head of Cell Culture and Histology Platforms at Biodonostia, and Olatz Arrizabalaga, Head of Scientific Coordination and R+D+i Management at Biodonostia, took part in the event. This action, which will be carried out with the researcher Abena Kwafo-Armah who works as a traumatologist at the Korle-Bu University Hospital in Ghana, focuses on the development of a 3D printing project in the hospital field.