Planet Earth Institute Announces New Board to Manage Growing Scholarship Programme

Last year the Planet Earth Institute launched the HE Ameenah Gurib-Fakim PhD Scholarship Programme after long months of planning and fund raising. The first 10 scholarship were handed out to Mauritian academics to conduct research in five key areas: water, energy, agriculture, medicine and blue sky science.

The programme came into being as the result of a joint effort between the Planet Earth Institute, its Chairman, businessman and philanthropist Dr Alvaro Sobrinho, and a group of partners that includes the World Bank. The private-public partnership that was formed has committed to funding 10,000 PhDs over the next 10 years. The funding will be given to African academics who’s research is focusing on one of the 5 main areas.

To oversee the administration and maintain high academic standards, the Planet Earth Institute has create an Academic Board. The board, which consists of 8 high-profile scientists, will ensure the PhD funding is effectively utilised and assist recipients of the funding throughout the process of completing their research.

Sir Christopher Edwards has been named Chairman of the Board, alongside such distinguished colleagues as Professor David Ingram, Professor Sir John Beddington, Professor Madeleine Atkins and Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub. Together they comprise the Academic Board and it will fall to them to ensure the smooth running of the HE Ameenah Gurib-Fakim PhD Scholarship Programme.

Upon acceptance of the position of Chairman, Sir Christopher express his gratitude to Alvaro Sobrinho, “for his ever generous support of these scholarships”, and said the board will be looking to “other African entrepreneurs and organisations working on the continent and passionate about scientific advancement to follow his example”.

The scholarships offered by the Planet Earth Institute cover all the expenses a research might incur and offer recipients the chance to undertake placements with international businesses and make use of the Institute’s own resources and outreach capacity.

Planet Earth Institute Announces Board Restructure

At the first African Breakfast Club meeting of 2017, the African NGO, the Planet Earth Institute, announced a restructuring of its board. Long-serving Chairman, Dr Alvaro Sobrinho is to step back from the position and be replaced by Lord Paul Boateng, previously British Ambassador to South Africa and a Plant Earth Institute Trustee since 2012. Sir Christopher Edwards will become the Chair of the PEI Academic Board and President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, previously the Vice-Chair of the Institute, will become the organisations Patron.

These changes come in the wake of many successes for the Planet Earth Institute, which has grown rapidly since its founding 7 years ago. Dr Alvaro Sobrinho no longer has the time, he says, “to dedicate the time that my responsibilities as Chairman demand, while simultaneously battling for the success of new ventures in Mauritius and across Africa.” While Mauritian President, Her Excellency Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, will begin to focus on the Institute’s international advocacy work, which is now supported by a generous grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

In reference to President Gurib-Fakim’s altered role at the Planet Earth Institute, now Chairman, Lord Paul Boateng, said “we are also further delighted that freed from day to day governance responsibilities as Trustee and Vice Chair, Her Excellency Gurib-Fakim will be able to continue to play a leading part in the PEI’s advocacy efforts in the new role of Patron of the PEI in Mauritius.” The incoming Chairman also gave a nod to his forerunner, noting the invaluable contributions Alvaro Sobrinho made to the organisation during his 7 year tenure.

Upon accepting the newly created position of Chair of the PEI Academic Board, esteemed scientist Sir Christopher Edwards said he is “delighted to be assuming this new role”. “Academic rigour and excellence will characterise the operation of our scholarship scheme combined with a focus on developmental impact” he continued.

The changes in leadership mark a new era for the Planet Earth Institute, an organisation that has clearly reached maturity during recent years.

International Fund of Agricultural Development Hosts President Gurib-Fakim

The International Fund of Agricultural Development (IFAD), a branch of the United Nations, hosted President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim of Mauritius at its 40th Governing Council meeting in February. HE President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, first woman president of the island nation, is a trustee of the Planet Earth Institute, along with Dr Alvaro Sobrinho. Her Excellency used her platform at the IFAD to bring up the topic of women in development.

Women play a central role in Africa development, argued President Gurib-Fakim. Not only do they take an active role in farming and cultivation, they often possess valuable traditional knowledge form which international agencies can learn a great deal. Including women in the process of development, continued President Gurib-Fakim, can provide a perspective that only they can offer and they can “introduce us to ways of thinking and practices that are not confined by our own experiences and backgrounds”.

For African women to fully realise their potential they must be equipped with the skills and tools they need said President Gurib-Fakim. In particular, women must be given the necessary scientific knowledge and technological equipment to contribute fully to the realisation development goals. When they are given both knowledge and technology, continued Her Excellency, rural people will become “agents of their own development”.

Relating the issue to agriculture, President Gurib-Fakim drew the attention of the audience to some of the technological tools that are already improving conditions for rural communities in Africa, including an online system for small farmers to buy and sell crops and farm inputs together and an innovative insurance scheme for small-holder farmers. Innovations such as these, argued President Gurib-Fakim, can make all the difference when it comes to creating sustainable development in rural, agrarian communities.

The meeting concluded with the election of Gilbert Houngbo as the 6th President of the IFAD. The new President hopes to create “visible change” in live of Africa’s rural poor.

New Seminar Event Launched By African NGO

In an effort to alter the largely “negative” discourse surrounding the African continent, the Planet Earth Institute has launched a seminar event focusing on the positive scientific and technological advancements being made in Africa. The seminars will provide a platform for groups and individuals to showcase and discuss their innovative work and to share their expertise with the world.

The first event in the Spotlight Seminar collection will take place in March at Burlington House in London. The event will focus on African agriculture, bringing to light the numerous scientific innovations being developed in African agriculture. The seminar will include high-level presentations, panel discussions and question and answer sessions with the distinguished guests and speakers.

Agriculture, asserts the Planet Earth Institute, “is at the heart of African development”. The sector employs around 65% of the African population and accounts for more than 30% of the continents GDP. Yet African farms face many obstacles, including harsh weather conditions, particularly drought, pests, plant diseases, poor quality soils and low access to reliable markets. The institute is also critical of the government support currently being provided to African small-holder farmers.

The first ever Spotlight Seminar will focus on the efforts being made to overcome the challenges faced by African farmers. A panel discussion on the opportunities these challenges present will dominate the first half of the event, while the second half will focus on the innovative solutions already in action and those on the horizon.

The speakers include well-known academics, CEO’s, agricultural entrepreneurs and leaders of international organisations. They will offer the audience their expert opinions on the problems and opportunities facing African agriculture and highlight the impressive efforts being made to overcome and capitalise on the on the situation.

The event will take place in London on the 15th March at the Royal Society of Chemistry, located at Burlington House.

Planet Earth Institute Hosts Visual Essay

Aimed at international organisations, national governments and education institutions, the Planet Earth Institute visual essay has been created in cooperation with The Engineering Lab Africa (The E-Lab) to showcase STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education at its best.

From its base in Nairobi, Kenya, the E-Lab runs numerous education programmes aimed at primary and secondary school children across Africa. Students, aged between 6-18 participate in a host of activities aimed at improving their knowledge of STEM in preparation for entering an industrialised, knowledge based economy when they graduate.

A report by the Planet Earth Institute on the visual essay suggests, “Africa has the potential to transform into a high-tech industrialised economy in the next 10 – 15 years”. But, the report continues, a lot of groundwork must be done before this prediction can be fully realised. It is important, argues the report, that Africa creates an environment that will encourage the huge number of young people on the continent to become innovative, creative and technologically equipped.

The E-Lab offers students the chance to learning programming, engage with technology in a practical way, and develop their critical thinking, communication skills, learn to collaborate with others and express creativity. The E-Lab believes these attributes are essential in a 21st context. It is best, the E-Lab continues, to introduce children to this activities from a young age when they are more likely to express interest and continue with similar activities into the future.

The Planet Earth Institute, led by Dr Alvaro Sobrinho, has been pushing STEM education in Africa as a solution to the continents development and economic challenges.

Sustainable Development Depends on Responsible Business

After attending the World Economic Forum last month, Dr Alvaro Sobrinho, chairman of African NGO, the Planet Earth Institute, has published his views on how to achieve sustainable development in Africa. Inspired by Klaus Schwab, Dr Sobrinho believes world leaders should listen to the frustration being expressed by the world’s populace and realise that not everybody has benefited from economic progress. To ensure they do, leaders must be responsible and responsive to the needs of the people, argues Alvaro Sobrinho.

Economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa is expected to fall in the coming years, slowing the rate of progress in the region. 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are still live without access to electricity and unemployment rates are through the roof. To ensure development in Africa, these issues must be dealt with, argues philanthropist and banker, Dr Alvaro Sobrinho.

Business, believes Dr Sobrinho, is the answer. “As the biggest source of job creation and a recognised engine of growth”, continues Sobrinho, business is best placed to provide solutions to the numerous development challenges Africa faces. Through the use of technology and innovation, business can provide employment and resolve issues of resource access and availability. As Dr Sobrinho notes, there are already many companies working to overcome the present challenges, including businesses bringing renewable energy into Africa homes.

Secondly, business can provide financing for further economic development, argues Dr Sobrinho. Start-up companies in Africa suffer from a lack of investment, finding it difficult to find adequate financing. Private sector finance could, and is, finding innovative ways to lend to promising start-ups without requiring traditional guarantees, such as credit rating.

Finally, Dr Alvaro Sobrinho returns to a familiar topic, advocating support for universities to ensure the skilled workers African businesses need are available. “Businesses”, says Sobrinho, “could also assist cash-strapped local universities”.

Only by offering responsible and responsive leadership will Africa achieve sustainable development; Dr Alvaro Sobrinho calls on business to play its part in leading Africa into a sustainable future.

Planet Earth Institute Deputy Calls for End to Brain Drain

In a publication of the World Economic Forum, President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, deputy chair of the Planet Earth Institute, has called for an end to the African brain drain. The continent, she argues, is in desperate need of ‘talented researchers’ to solve its numerous problems. She hopes that by reversing the brain drain ‘Africa’s problems can be solved by Africa’s people.’

As the first woman to be elected president of Mauritius, and as a respected biodiversity scientist, President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim has seen first had the benefits of an excellent education. She attended the University of Surrey, UK, from which she graduated with a BSc in chemistry. After obtaining a PhD in organic chemistry at the prestigious University of Exeter, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim began teaching at the University of Mauritius. She has published numerous academic works and continues to express a keen interest in science.

Since 2016, HE Ameenah Gurib-Fakim has served as deputy chair and trustee of the Planet Earth Institute, an African NGO founded by Angolan philanthropist and investment banker, Dr Alvaro Sobrinho, with the objective of promoting science in Africa. The Institute has launched an assortment of projects and initiatives aimed at furthering the scientific advancement of Africa.

While in attendance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Planet Earth deputy chair Ameenah Gurib-Fakim announced a new project led by the Institute that focuses on raising capital for scientific research in Africa. After announcing the project at the conference, President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim elaborated on the need for science focused funding, calling for an STI (science, technology and innovation) fund. Only by providing adequate funding and opportunities in Africa, argues Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, can the brain drain be prevented.

Dr Alvaro Sobrinho, chair of the Planet Earth Institute, has expressed the same opinion many times while arguing in favour of increased spending on science. He believes that talented scientists must be given a reason to remain in Africa, chiefly in the form of funding support from national government, international donors and private businesses.

President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim to Give Speech at Davos

HE Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, Madame President of Mauritius, trustee of the Planet Earth Institute and close friend of Dr Alvaro Sobrinho, Chairman of the Planet Earth Institute, will give a key note speech at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on the 20th January 2017.

Every year the World Economic Forum hosts world leaders, the foremost figures of the international business world, renowned academics and the world’s best economists. Together they discuss the state of the global economy, offer their expert insights and press their agenda for a better, more prosperous future. This year will be the 47th anniversary of the event, which has garnered increasing attention in recent years, particularly in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis when people were looking for new leadership in the international economy.

HE Ameenah Gurib-Fakim will take part in an expert panel focusing on the Global Science Outlook, alongside a collection of well-respected individuals, including Marc Casper and Fabiola Gianotti. Other speakers at this years event include Arianna Huffington, John Kerry, Paul Kagame, Christine Lagarde, Teresa May, Mark Rutte and philanthropist pop star, Shakira.

During her speech President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim will announce the launch of a new Planet Earth Institute project, a call to action for international organisations, business and African governments to focus R&D (research and development) on scientific research in Africa. In particular, the programme aims to increase R&D funding for research that looks at the essential areas of water, energy, food and health. The programme is funded by a grant award to the Planet Earth Institute by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The new programme is part of the Planet Earth Institute’s plan, under the guidance of chairman and founder Dr Alvaro Sobrinho, to advance the scientific capacity of Africa.

A Good Year for Alvaro Sobrinho’s Planet Earth Institute

The Planet Earth Institute, the African charity led by philanthropist and international banker Dr Alvaro Sobrinho, has declared “notable successes” in 2016 in its work on African development. In an end of year report the charity said their efforts to “advocate for high-quality and industry-relevant science in Africa” continued throughout the year, working with partners to ensure their campaign was effectively delivered.

In particular, the Planet Earth Institute launched two new programmes delivering PhD training to African scholars and funding important research in key development areas. The H.E. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim PhD Scholarship Programme has handed out its first wave of funding to exceptional African graduates, ensuring they can complete a high-level PhD programme with industry experience included.

The charity received support from prominent organisations including the world-renowned Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Alongside support from the Foundation, the Planet Earth Institute worked alongside the African Academy of Sciences to deliver its development programmes.

The organisation achieved great success launching the Science and Technology Enrolment Programme (STEP), an education initiative aimed at school students in Mauritius. The programme sought to promote the value to science to the students in the hope they would enrol in science classes in the future. The programme was well received, leading the organisation to launch STEP in Angola earlier this month. STEP Angola will continue throughout 2017, bringing its programme to more than 1500 students. Dr Alvaro Sobrinho, the Angolan born Chairman of the Institute said he was “delighted” that he and the institute were able to extended the programme to his home country.

The Planet Earth Institute will be looking ahead to 2017, with plans to expand its efforts to promote science across Africa.

STEP Study Day in Angola

Having received high praise for its work in Mauritius, the Plane Earth Institute (PEI) has decided to roll out its Science, Technology Enrolment Programme (STEP) in Angola, birthplace of (PEI) Chairman, Dr Alvaro Sobrino. The first STEP study day in Angola took place this week and was well received by both student and teachers.

The PEI launched STEP in response to the dire rate of enrolment for science focused subjects at schools across Africa. The programme focuses on young students from the age of 12 to 16. It hope to inspire students to study STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects. Thus far, the project has organised more than 7 events in Mauritius, including a tour of a marine exploration vessel and, most recently, a space science focused study day.

The PEI believes that equipping African students with STEM centered skills and knowledge is essential for the future development of the continent and the individual prosperity of African graduates. The African economy is becoming increasingly technological and will require a new generation of scientific leaders to steer and guide it. With millions of young Africans expected to join the labor force over the next 10 years, equipping the youth with scientific educations will be essential to their success on the labor market. The era of low-skilled, low-paid jobs in Africa is on the way out, a new age of high-tech development, led by highly educated individuals is about to begin.

The STEP study day in Angola is the first of many such day that have already been planned for the coming year. The PEI hopes to reach more than 1500 Angolan students with the programme, inspiring them and demonstrating the importance of science to their lives. The programme will also include a segment focused on improving the language skills of participants. During the study day this week, all classes were given in English with translation. The PEI hopes that this will improve the chances that students will learn English, the primary language needed to succeed in a globalized world.