Waterloo, Ont. -
Stephen Harper dropped in on famed cosmologist Stephen Hawking Tuesday bearing scholarly gifts - a post-doctoral scholarship for Canada.
The prime minister, following up on a budget commitment, ann-ounced 70 fellowships a year will be awarded with a total value of $45 million over five years.
"We must invest in the people and ideas that will produce tomorrow's breakthroughs," Harper said.
"The Banting post-doctoral fellowships will give scholars in research institutions across the country the support they need to explore and develop their ideas to the fullest."
Hawking took up residence at the Perimeter Institute for theoretical physics in this southwestern Ontario city last month and will continue his work through July.
Hawking, who suffers from neuro-muscular dystrophy and is all but paralyzed, thanked Harper for his support of the sciences and said he was "delighted" with the scholarship program.
"By investing in young scientists, it is setting an example which other countries would do well to follow," Hawking said through the electronic device he uses to communicate.
The post-doctoral scholarships are worth $70,000 each for two years and will be awarded to both Canadians and others abroad to study in Canada.
The $45-million cost was initially announced in the federal budget in March.
Hawking was to have visited the Ontario facility last summer as a research chair, but illness forced him to cancel.
The author of the highly acclaimed "A Brief History of Time" retired from Cambridge University in England last year at age 67.
Harper thanked Hawking for coming to the Perimeter Institute and praised him as an "inspiration" to Canadian scientists.
The prime minister also ann-ounced $20 million to help establish five science, math and technology centres in Africa as part of the Next Einstein Initiative.
"This is a revolutionary approach to development," the prime minister said.
"It aims to nurture the brightest minds in Africa."
Hawking called science a "powerful unifier" for people in Africa.
"I believe that linking Africans to each other and to the world through science is one of the best investments one can make in Africa's future," he said.
Ghana, Ethiopia and Senegal are the next three countries to get a centre of excellence, adding to two already established in South Africa and Nigeria.
The aim is to build self-sufficiency and help African countries find their own solutions to their challenges.
Hawking also said he looked forward to returning often to the Perimeter Institute.
The institute is a public-private partnership that receives funding from the Canadian and Ontario governments as well as individual donors.