by Dave Evans
On 3rd November 2016, with the support of IFORS President, Michael Trick and the Chair of the IFORS Developing Countries Committee, Sue Merchant, a group of African OR/MS researchers met in Nairobi to discuss a mega project for Africa: The African Federation of Operations Research Societies (AFROS). ORSSA was a founder member of AFROS in 2017. As many members of ORSSA may not be familiar with AFROS’s activities, this newsletter gives a broad overview of them.
Full member ‘national’ societies are the OR Society of Tunisia, the OR Society of East Africa and ORSSA. The Society for OR Practice in Africa (ORPA) is also a full member. This gives an unfairly narrow picture, as several other countries have active OR organisations which are involved, but are more accurately be described as ‘chapters’ at the moment – Egypt and Morocco are in this category and Nigeria have two.
AFROS is run by an executive committee made up of elected and ex-officio members. Charles Malack Oloo, from Kenya, was the first president of AFROS with a mandate to organize its inaugural conference in 2018.
Hatem Masri is the current president, with Charles the past president, and our own Bernie Lindner, who has been involved since day one, as both secretary and treasurer. The database manager and webmaster is Serigne Gueye and the public relations manager is Fouad Ben Abdelaziz. The member society presidents are ex-officio members, which now include me. Sue Merchant and our own Hans Ittmann are also actively involved.
Working Groups have been one of EURO's success stories. AFROS is currently initiating what will obviously be ‘virtual’ working groups along similar lines, to tackle topics of common interest. Given the geographic spread of the members, they would be ‘virtual’ to a very large degree anyway, and in these current weird Covid circumstances, it has just become even more inevitable. Topics suggested so far cover:
· Airline Scheduling
· Health Services, Healthcare (These two could be combined)
· Statistics and OR
· Transportation Sciences
· Big Data and Artificial Intelligence
· Sustainable Development
· Multiple Criteria Decision Aiding
· Data Envelopment Analysis
As this area is still in its formative phase, could anyone who is interested in participating in one, leading one, or wishes to suggest an additional one, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
AFROS does not have a journal of their own. They are looking at doing special one offs with the publishers, Springer, and also teaming up with ORSSA and ORiON for at least one joint issue this year, and possibly for us to reconfigure OriON as a broader African journal, going forward. The front cover already lends itself to that.
AFROS held its inaugural conference in Tunis in 2018, with a program of 108 papers from 22 countries.
As you may know, our conference in September this year was held jointly with AFROS. Whilst we hoped that the Covid situation would have improved enough for us to have a face to face component to the conference, that was not teh case. AFROS members from around the continent joined us virtually without having to travel here, as did other speakers and delegates from around teh world. The AFROS strategy was presented at the conference.
The AFROS plan is also to hold webinars going forward – again so that members from around the continent can participate without any costly physical travel. These will be communicated when they are scheduled.
AFROS is looking forward to building its relationships with other similar OR groupings, such as IFORS, EURO and ALIO.
Obviously, in addition to these activities at ‘continental’ level, all the various chapters and societies have their own internal activities going on, as ORSSA does.
The AFROS website is http://afrosocieties.org/
As information becomes available about activities which may be of interest to ORSSA members, these will be communicated.