IBM is expanding its quantum computing program to Africa after entering into a partnership with one of the continent's top universities. The University of the Witwatersrand (Wits University) has become the first African academic partner in the IBM Q Network and will be the gateway for academic collaboration across South Africa, and to the other 15 universities who are part of the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA).

IBM established the IBM Q Network as a community of companies, startups, academic institutions and research labs working with IBM to advance quantum computing and explore practical applications for business and science.

"This is the latest outcome of the joint partnership between IBM Research and Wits, which started in 2016 when IBM opened its second lab in Africain Wits University's Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct in Johannesburg. To expand the IBM Q Network to include Wits will drive innovation in frontier-technologies and benefit African-based researchers, academics and students who now have access to decades of quantum computing capabilities at the click of a button," said Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, Wits Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Postgraduate Affairs.

As part of the partnership between IBM and Wits, scholars from the other fifteen ARUA universities including: Addis Ababa University; University of Ghana; University of Nairobi; University of Lagos; University of Ibadan; Obafemi Awolowo University lle-Ife; University of Rwanda; University Cheikh Anta Diop; University of Cape Town; University of Kwa-Zulu Natal; University of Pretoria; Rhodes University; University of Stellenbosch; University of Dar es Salaam and Makerere University, will have the opportunity to apply for access to IBM Q's most-advanced quantum computing systems and software for teaching quantum information science and exploring early applications. To gain access to the IBM Q quantum cloud service, ARUA scholars will be required to submit quality research proposals to a scientific committee of Wits and IBM experts for approval.

It's expected that researchers at Wits University will investigate the use of quantum computing and machine learning in the fields of molecular biology with a specific focus on HIV drug discovery and cosmology. The teams will also jointly study quantum teleportation with IBM, a field pioneered by IBM Fellow Charles Bennett.

"Having access to IBM Q is pivotal for Wits University's cross-disciplinary research program and allows our researchers in quantum computing, artificial intelligence, and in the broad natural sciences, including in laser technology, quantum optics and molecular design, to leverage the next level of discovery research. It's envisioned that the first results from this collaboration will be forthcoming in the next two years," said Vilakazi.