Port Louis – Prominent scientist Ameenah Gurib-Fakim was on Thursday approved by the parliament of Mauritius as the Indian Ocean island nation’s new president, making her the first woman to hold the ceremonial position.
Parliament speaker Maya Hanoomanjee, who is also the first woman to hold that post, said the overwhelming approval of Gurib-Fakim’s designation was an historic day for the country. The opposition also supported her appointment, making the vote a mere formality.
Her inauguration ceremony will take place on Friday, officials said.
Gurib-Fakim, aged 56, becomes the first female president of the island, which gained independence from Britain in 1968 and replaced Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state in 1992.
Dr Gurib-Fakim has also been serving in different capacity in numerous local, regional and international organisations. She has authored or co-edited 26 books and several book chapters. She has authored numerous scientific articles and lectured extensively across the world within the field of biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.
She has been elected Fellow of the Linnaean Society of London in 2007; Fellow of the Islamic World Academy of Science, Jordan in 2009; Fellow of the African Science Institute in 2010 and Fellow of the African Academy of Sciences in 2013. She received the 2007 L’Oreal-UNESCO prize for Women in Science and Laureate of the National Economic and Social Council. She is recipient of the African Union Commission Award for ‘Women in Science’ for the Eastern African Region in 2009.
Dr Gurib-Fakim was elevated to the Order of the Commander of the Star and Key by the Government of Mauritius in 2008 and admitted to the Order of the Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques by the Government of France in 2010. In 2013, she received the Honorary DSC (Doctor Honoris Causa) from the prestigious Université Pierre Marie Curie of the Sorbonne, Paris, France. In April 2014, she was elected on the Governing Council of the African Academy of Sciences as the Regional Representative of the East African Region.
Mauritius is one of the richest, and least corrupt countries in Africa, a middle-income nation of some 1.3 million people with a per capita GDP of just over $9 000.
Gurib-Fakim is currently director of the Mauritius-headquartered Centre for Phytotherapy Research (CEPHYR), which carries out research on plants for use in cosmetics, nutrition and therapy.