Prof. Dr. Mama Foupouagnigni
DAAD Scholarship 1994–1998
Even as a young boy, Mama Foupouagnigni liked to play around with numbers. His father had a large shop in his hometown of Foumban, and Mama Foupouagnigni had to count the takings every day. "It was a difficult but fascinating task. I didn't know what had motivated my father, but this daily task encouraged me to develop skills like mental arithmetic and abstract thinking," remembers the Cameroonian.
Mathematics is a permanent intellectual challenge and I love challenges in general. When I succeed in solving a mathematical problem, I feel a great satisfaction that is difficult to describe. Then, I sometimes ask myself: Why didn’t I succeed in solving this problem earlier?
What this arithmetical foundation was good for can today be seen in the mathematician's successful scientific career. In the summer of 2006, Mama Foupouagnigni became the first African to obtain habilitation in mathematics at a German university, the University of Kassel. "I was both happy and sad about my habilitation. I was pleased to have managed it and to have shown that, contrary to the widespread view about Africa, it is possible for an African to reach such a level. And I was sad, because this success reminded me of the great intellectual capacities that still lie fallow, because most African governments do not address questions of research and the brain drain."
In his habilitation thesis, Foupouagnigni studied orthogonal polynomials and gained new insights in the field of computer algebra. "Very often, mathematics provides the tools for other sciences," he says. “My habilitation thesis contains important new findings in the field of orthogonal polynomials and special functions.” Building on this, he is developing the theory of linear functionals on non-uniform lattices. This should improve the capacity of computer algebra software to solve divided-difference equations.
After finishing high school in 1988, Foupouagnigni studied mathematics at the University of Yaounde where he completed his Master’s degree in 1993. In 1994, a DAAD Scholarship took him to the Institut de Mathématiques et de Sciences Physiques in Porto-Novo (Bénin), where he obtained his doctorate in mathematical physics in 1998. In 2001, he went to Kassel as a postdoctoral student. To carry out research for this habilitation, he commuted between Cameroon, Germany and Italy from 2002 and was able to finish this work in 2006.
With his habilitation thesis under his belt, the father of four returned to Cameroon in 2006. Since that time he has held a professorship in mathematics at the University of Yaounde I. Since 2013 Mama Foupouagnigni has been academic director of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences and the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS-Cameroon).