British Council Added to the Science Africa UnConference Line-up

Earlier this week the Planet Earth Institute (PEI) announced that the British Council would be joining the line-up at next week’s Science Africa Conference in London. In keeping with the theme of the conference – which focuses on how to get young Africans the education they need for science based economy – the British Council with a give a workshop of improving education in developing regions.

With years of experience running educational and cultural programmes all over the world, the British Council has recently been awarded the task of managing a Department For International Development (DFID) programme focused on improving education in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The programme, which has a budge of £45 million, will look at how higher-education can be transformed to meet the changing needs of the labour market in the aforementioned regions.

The focus of the programme compliments the work of the PEI; the Institute has set up several high-education initiatives during the last few years, including an extensive PhD funding programme and a high-education research institute. PEI Chairman, Dr Alvaro Sobrinho, has spoken often of the need to revamp and improve higher-education in Africa if the continent is to meet the economic, social and developmental challenges of the coming years.

Alongside the workshop, the British Council will join the list of distinguished organisations supporting the event; the list includes the World Bank, IMB Research Africa and several prominent UN bodies. These partner organisations have joined the PEI in contributing financially to the hosting of the conference. Their combined contributions have ensured the conference remain free to anyone wishing to participate.

Registration can be carried out online, via the PEI’s website. The Conference takes places next week, on September 14th. The day will be hosted by Lord Paul Boateng and HE President Gurib-Fakim, with Dr Alvaro Sobrinho in attendance throughout the day.

Keynote Speaker Announced for Science UnConference

This week the Planet Earth Institute finally announced the keynote speaker for the Science Africa UnConference taking place in London on September 14th. While the agenda and workshops had already been made public on the institutes website, until recently attendees were unaware of who would be speaking at the conference. The Planet Earth Institute have now confirmed the keynote speaker, along with two more esteemed speakers.

The keynote will be given by the Chief Scientific Advisor at the UK Department of International Development, Professor Charlotte Watts. Professor Watts has worked for the Department of International Development for nearly two years, giving scientific advise to ministers and members of the government. Prior to her government position, Professor Watts conducted research and taught at the London School of Hygiene and Medicine, as Professor of Social and Mathematical Epidemiology. She will discuss strategies for preparing young Africans for an economy focused on high-tech manufacturing and science based innovations.

The input from Professor Watts will be substantiated and reinforced by two more high-profile speakers, Dr Thomas Kariuki and Kedest Tesfagiorgis. Dr Kariuki is a Kenyan biomedical scientists who has won numerous awards and accolades for his work in the field. He has recently been appointed Director of the newly formed Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa. The new body is part of the African Academy for Science and is intended to collect and distribute funding for scientific research in Africa. The organisation has obviously overlapping objectives with the Planet Earth Institute and the intention of the conference itself, making Dr Kariuki an ideal speaker.

Ms Tesfagiorgis is an Ethiopian born health advocate; she is currently working for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on the Grand Challenges Program. The program awards grants to researcher working on promising solutions to major international health issues. Substantial grants have been awarded to thousands of researchers resulting in numerous innovative solutions to pressing health problems.

The three speakers will share their thoughts on the conference’s theme, the African youth bulge and how to equip young Africans with the skills they will need to become future scientific leaders on the continent.

Conference on African Youth Bulge to be Held in London

As perviously reported, the Planet Earth Institute will focus their annual ScienceAfrica UnConference on the issues of the African youth bulge, a topic that Obama has called an “extraordinary” opportunity.

Last week the Planet Earth Institute announced the final details of the conference and opened registration to the public through Eventbrite. The conference will include high level presentations, expert speakers, workshops and working groups, divided across a single day, running from 9:00 until 6:30.

The day will start with an introduction given by Planet Earth Institute board members, Load Paul Boateng and President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, after which attendees will be work on generating ideas and solutions to the youth bulge challenge. The working groups will be followed by a panel discussion and questions with high profile members of the business, policy and academic worlds.

In the afternoon guests will have the opportunity to attend several workshops. Several workshops will be run simultaneously, giving the participants the chance to choose the workshop that suits their skill set best.

The day will conclude with a roundup of events followed by time for reflection and summaries. The Planet Earth Institute hopes that participants will be able to agree on the next steps to take, including what actionable goals and targets they can all work towards.

The event will be held in London, at the Kensington Town Hall. Entry is free and the programme runs from 9:00 in the morning until 6:30 in the evening. Alongside the Planet Earth Institute, the ScienceAfrica UnConference has received support from the United Nations Environmental Programme, IBM and business magnate and philanthropist, Dr Alvaro Sobrinho. 

Alvaro Sobrinho Praises the Planet Earth Institutes Future Women Leaders in STEM Project

Speaking on the closing day of a week long event, Future Women Leaders in STEM, Dr Alvaro Sobrinho emphasised once again the importance that scientific education will have in preparing Africa’s youth for the continents upcoming challenges.

The event was organised as part of the Planet Earth Institutes Science and Technology Enrolment Programme. The initiative was set up to encourage African students to study so-called STEM subjects. These are science, technology, engineering and mathematics based subjects. Enrolment in these subject areas is generally across the African continent. To rectify this, the Planet Earth Institute, under the direction of its chairman, Dr Alvaro Sobrinho, is working to inspire students and convey to them the importance and potential benefits of pursing a career in the sciences.

The Science and Technology Enrolment Programme has already made headway, holding science day as several schools and organising extra-curricular science based activities for African students. Future Women Leaders in STEM, an intensive four day event, is the most recent event carried out. This initiative focused on inspiring female students in particular. While currently underrepresented in the sector, it is well understood that woman have a crucial role to play in the scientific development of Africa.

Over the course of the four day programme 100 students from schools all over Mauritius came together to learn about science and be inspired by organisations and practitioners from all over the world. The students were taught about some of the greatest, most impactful inventions in history, demonstrated the everyday usefulness and applicability of science and introduced to wildlife and taught how to protect it.

The four day event was well received by participants and organisers alike. After some intensive learning, the week was drawn to a close with a ceremony hosted by Dr Alvaro Sobrinho. After sharing a few words with the crowd, Dr Sobrinho proceed to hand out awards to students who had shown particular aptitude or work especially hard during the workshops and learning activities.

Dr Sobrinho praised the organisation of the event and expressed his firm belief in the importance of the Planet Earth Institute’s Science and Technology Enrolment Programme for inspiring young African students to choose to study STEM subjects.

Planet Earth Institute Selects Scholarship Winners

After nearly two months of deliberations, the Planet Earth Institute announced last week that it has chosen the 10 lucky PhD applicants who will receive funding from the scholarship programme the foundation is running in Mauritius.

Students will receive a generous amount of funding as part of the scholarship, including the payment of all tuition fees at their university, all the associated costs of their research, travel expenses and a generous stipend on which to live. Alongside the financial benefits, students will be able to use the Planet Earth Institutes network of connections to industry in order to secure placements for themselves within successful, leading businesses.

Research findings will be promoted through the Planet Earth Institute networks and students will have the opportunity to present their work at various online and live Planet Earth Institute events. The scholarship aims to create scientific leaders that can support African development and advance scientific progress on the continent, as well as supporting the individuals research objectives.

Dr Alvaro Sobrinho explained that the scholarship is about producing quality of the highest standard and helping young researchers along the path to becoming leaders in the field of science. It is his hope that their research will prompt the emergence of new innovations and technologies that will counter some of the many problems facing Africa.

The advancement of scientific learning and educational capacity in Africa has long been one of Alvaro Sobrinho’s primary goals. He firmly believes that Africa’s future success hinges on the continents ability to adapt to new technologies and become a leader in scientific advancement. It is to this end that he has personally contributed to financing the 10 scholarships that have been awarded by the Planet Earth Institute this week. Other financial contributors include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and African Academy of Science, along with several other international organisations.

Dr Alvaro Sobrinho Calls for an Increase in Girls Participation in Science Education

After attending the Women’s Forum in Mauritius Dr Alvaro Sobrinho has published an article calling for action to be taken to ensure the participation of girls in science education. He notes the growing awareness of the issues across the continent; African Union leader, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is currently promoting gender parity within the organisation and within educational arenas across the country.

Dr Sobrinho argues convincingly in favour of promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects to female students, “There is a clear need to improve the participation of girls in science education, training and research at all levels on the continent.” Doing so, continues Sobrinho, will ensure that female students have access to highly skilled, well paid jobs in sectors that are developing fast.

On top the personal benefits, gaining a STEM based education will allow women to take an active role in overcoming the continents many social, development and economic problems. “Africa”, says Sobrinho, “is at a crossroads in its development where it desperately needs citizens with high-level scientific and technical skills to address its greatest challenges.”

Yet currently, only one in three scientific researchers are women. To overcome this, Dr Sobrinho has been supporting recent initiatives of the Planet Earth Institute in his capacity as Chairman. In particular, the institution has hosted several events giving girls the chance to learn about science and the career prospects it offers.

In the end, argues Dr Sobrinho, increasing the participation of girls in scientific education is not only about fairness, “but [also] an economic and developmental imperative for our continent”.

Planet Earth Institute Joins the Women’s Forum in Mauritius

From 20th to the 21st June, the Planet Earth Institute teamed up with the Women’s Forum to participate in their first event ever held in Mauritius. The began with an opening speech from Mauritian President Her Excellency Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, who took the opportunity to speak about the dangers of climate change. In particular, Her Excellency drew attention to recent flash floods that have hit the island, causing damage to prime agricultural land.

The topic of Her Excellency’s opening speech was determined by the innovation focus of this year’s Women’s Forum. The Forum acted as a two-day meeting of scientists, policymakers and business representatives, giving them the chance to discuss ideas and solutions relating to the challenge of climate change.

The discussion spanned from biodiversity, to improving access and participation of women in scientific training and education. Guests were invited to take an active role in the discussions, many of whom had highly relevant backgrounds in the sciences, government and advocacy. International speakers introduced topics to the assembled guests, via short, informative presentations.

During the second day of the Forum, Alvaro Sobrinho hosted the CEO Championship luncheon. The event looked specifically at the gender gap in corporate governance in Africa. The day included a discussion with three future female leaders, looking at the challenges they face from day to day.

To find out more about the partnership between the Planet Earth Institute and the Women’s Forum and to learn why they work together you can visit the YouTube Channel of Planet Earth Institute Chairman, Dr Alvaro Sobrinho.

Africa can be Energy Independent with Help form the Private Sector

Clearly something is going wrong when 500 million people do not have access to electricity in the 21st Century. Yet this is the situation on the African continent, where 500 million burn wood and kerosene for fuel (cutting down ancient forests as they do so!). Years of investment in Africa, from governments, aid groups and individuals has failed to rectify the situation. Africans continue to cut down trees for fuel.

Philanthropist and businessman, Alvaro Sobrinho abhors the situation and is demanding that action be taken to resolve the problem. However, unlike reformers of the past he is not calling for government intervention, no, he is calling for the private sector to take action, and at once.

Africa has vast energy resources, and not just dirty fossil fuels. With more than 10 terawatts of clear, solar energy just waiting to be absorbed by solar panels,1,300 gigawatts of wind power and 15 gigawatts of thermal energy, Africa is a supremely wealth continent, if only it could make use of the resources available.

Alvaro Sobrinho has suggested that working with business to build Africa’s energy capacity is the best way to proceed. Indeed, it would seem that he is quite right; already private companies and making huge contributions to the development of Africa’s energy needs. In Kenya, Google has made a substantial investment in the Lake Turkana wind farm. The wind farm will cover 40,000 acres of land and supply 310MWs of energy through its 365 wind turbines.

Complimenting the efforts of governments and international funds, the private sector can clearly make a valuable and much needed contribution to securing Africa’s energy independence over the coming years.

African Youth Bulge Conference

Last year, while undertaking a 5 day tour of Africa, President Barak Obama commented on the “extraordinary” opportunity of Africa’s youth bulge. He suggested that Africa “has the potential to be the next center of global economic growth”. Africa’s success will largely depend on how the continent deals with its enormous population of youths. Currently, 43% of the content is aged 15 or under, while some 200 million inhabitants are between 15 and 24. Dealing with the demographic issues is possibly the greatest challenge facing African governments and business leaders today.

In light of the growing importance of the African youth bulge, the Planet Earth Institute will be hosting a high level conference to discuss strategies for overcoming the problem and turning it into the “extraordinary” opportunity Obama believes it can be.

200 delegates have been invited to attend the conference in London. They will be asked to offer their thoughts on the African youth bulge and to work together to develop a concrete strategy for getting more young Africans into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education.

The Planet Earth Institute already supports a wide range of programmes designed to support African students studying STEM subjects. These programmes include the funding of a PhD research centre and the funding of over 10,000 PhDs over the course of the next 10 years.

The institute hopes the conference can shed light on more ways to promote and support education programmes that will mitigate the problems brought on by Africa’s demographics.

Dr Alvaro Sobrinho has previously pointed out the necessity of an employment strategy for young Africans. He has personally advocated a focus on scientific education as the most effective way of preparing young Africans for the high-tech, low employment economy they are bound to face in the coming years.

The conference will be held on London on September 15th.

PhD Scholarship Launched

The first phase of the Planet Earth Institute’s ambitious PhD funding programme has now officially begun. As of the 6th May, students and research have been able to submit relevant research proposals to the Planet Earth Institute in the hope of winning a scholarship from the organisation.

Applications will continue to be considered until the end of the month, after which a short time will be given over to reviewing each of the applications to identify the most suitable proposals. To be considered proposals must outline research in one of serval key fields identified by the scholarship criteria, these include issues of energy, sanitation, health and agriculture.

Successful applicants will undertake their research in Africa and the UK. Each successful student will be given full support by the Planet Earth Institute, which will be coordinating the scholarship from its offices in Mauritius.

Alongside access to some of the best and most exclusive universities in Africa and the UK, students will be given access to some of the worlds most dynamic and innovative companies. The Planet Earth Institute coordination team will assist students in securing placements with companies associated with the scholarship.

The objective of the scholarship is to support a new generation of African scientists and researchers who can develop solutions to the many economic and environmental challenges the continent faces.

Dr Alvaro Sobrinho, Chairman of the Planet Earth Institute, described the launch of the PhD scholarship as a “proud” moment for the NGO.