IYL 2015 African Regional Conference celebrated in Ghana

On 14-16 September 2015, Ghana celebrated the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015 (IYL 2015) with the African Regional Conference “Harnessing Light and Light-Based Technologies for Africa’s Development” in Accra.

Group photograph with high-level participants on the Opening Ceremony of the Conference
Group photograph with high-level participants on the Opening Ceremony of the Conference

The IYL 2015 Africa Regional Conference sought to promote interactions and dialogue among academics, professionals, policy-makers, industrialists, entrepreneurs, young people, innovators and other stakeholders to highlight the relevance of light in the sciences, the arts, culture and the humanities. It also served to promote the central role of light in enhancing many opportunities in light-based technologies for the welfare of humankind. Representatives from Mexico, Sweden, Senegal, Algeria, Cameroon, Egypt, and other countries attended the conference.

At the opening of the conference a message from the President of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama, was read on his behalf. President Mahama highlighted that it was Ghana’s support that brought about the celebration of the IYL 2015. He also added that the tide of light-based technologies is still on the ascendency, with unprecedented opportunities for improvements in agriculture and health, the delivery of energy and social services, and for wealth creation. “Light has indeed fuelled virtually every innovation, and light provides the large bandwidths that support modern communications technologies,” the President said.

Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, the Minister of Education who is also as the Chairperson of the Ghana National Commission for UNESCO, said science and light had become a key cross- cutting discipline of social sciences, the arts and engineering in the 21st century. Prof. Opoku-Agyemang said it was essential that light and the application of light-based technologies were appreciated by everyone. She also added that the hosting of the conference would therefore promote interaction and dialogue among academics, industries and professionals in using optics and photonics concepts in tapping developmental strategies for everyone. This would help policy makers to appreciate the relevance for support for science in economic development.

In addition, Prof. Francis K. Allotey, Chairman of the Local Organising Committee of the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies, explained that the celebration demonstrated that the world appreciate the contribution of scientists in the field of light and how it could be used to solve interdisciplinary problems such as health, energy and using photonic devices to improve the quality of life.

After fruitful discussions during the conference, the participants of the Africa Regional Conference to celebrate the IYL 2015 resolved the following:

  • Effective institutions need to be built to bring efficiency in the energy sector to diversify the energy mix, reduce risk and conserve energy with relevant technologies;
  • Effective research needs to be undertaken in solar and other renewable energy technologies to reduce cost, increase efficiency, and build capacity;
  • Development of both software and hardware technologies at tertiary institutions to enhance digital literacy and create high speed networks needs to be undertaken;
  • Proven photonic technologies need to be adequately deployed for effective healthcare delivery, agriculture, and environmental monitoring;
  • Light-based technologies that improve energy efficiency and enhance artistic value of cultural artefacts need to be employed in architectural designs and preservation of cultural heritage;
  • There needs to be a commitment to setting up national research foundations to support research to address our socio-economic development such as setting aside a fraction of national revenues to fund research;
  • The field of photonics should be introduced into the curriculum of medical schools;
  • Multi-disciplinary work should be facilitated—let medical doctors listen to and meet scientists for initiating cross-disciplinary research;
  • Government of Ghana should take leadership in bringing the issues from the Conference to a larger forum that brings together all regional stakeholders at the highest level of the African Union for further deliberation and implementation across the continent of Africa;
  • Government of Ghana should further spearhead the organization of a series of regional conferences to address each of the themes of the IYL 2015 and the issues emanating from the Conference.

As a means of leaving an important legacy with the celebration of the IYL 2015 for the African continent that would commemorate the strengthening of collaborations among the cross-cutting fields of the natural sciences, the social sciences and the arts to reinforce the objectives of the Africa Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action and the United Nations post-2015 Development Agenda for the continent, the Africa Regional Conference and Exhibition will work towards the achievement of the following key deliverables:

  • The upgrading of the Laser and Fibre Optics Centre (LAFOC) of the University of Cape Coast into a fully-fledged Institute for capacity-building and research in lasers and fibre optic communications;
  • The establishment of a Solar Technology Research Centre to enhance the study and promotion of solar science and the use of alternative energy;
  • The establishment of a sub-regional Laser Medical Application Laboratory (LMAL) for training medical practitioners and other professionals;
  • The establishment of a Museum of Light and Light-Based Technologies as part of solutions to emerging needs in the post-2015 UN Development Agenda.

For more information on IYL 2015 activities in Ghana, please visit the National website.

About IYL 2015

The International Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies (IYL 2015) is a global initiative adopted by the United Nations (A/RES/68/221) to raise awareness of how optical technologies promote sustainable development and provide solutions to worldwide challenges in energy, education, agriculture, communications and health.  With UNESCO as lead agency, IYL 2015 programs will promote improved public and political understanding of the central role of light in the modern world while also celebrating noteworthy anniversaries in 2015—from the first studies of optics 1,000 years ago to discoveries in optical communications that power the Internet today.  The IYL Global Secretariat is located at the Abdus Salam International Centre of Theoretical Physics (ICTP).

The Founding Partners of IYL 2015 are the American Institute of Physics (AIP), the American Physical Society (APS), the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft (DPG), the European Physical Society (EPS), the Abdus Salam International Centre of Theoretical Physics (ICTP), the IEEE Photonics Society (IPS), the Institute of Physics (IOP), Light: Science and Applications, the lightsources.org International Network, 1001 Inventions, The Optical Society (OSA) and the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE). 

Patron Sponsors include Bosca, the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD), Royal Philips Lighting, Thorlabs and UL.


Riche-Mike Wellington
Secretary-General Ghana Commission for UNESCO

John Dudley
Steering Committee Chair
International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015

Joe Niemela
Global Coordinator (IYL Secretariat)
International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015