Give African Scientists Meaningful Employment Opportunities, Say Experts

To solve the African brain drain Africa needs to build a science and technology infrastructure capable of providing meaningful employment to the continents science graduates, say experts from business and academia.

Dr Alvaro Sobrinho, business magnate and philanthropist who’s efforts have focused on promoting science and technology in Africa, has argued for increased government spending on research in key areas, such as agriculture. This would, argues Dr Alvaro Sobrinho, offer challenging and exciting opportunities to young, African science graduates while simultaneously contributing to the development of home-grown African science and the technological independence of the continent.

The views of Dr Alvaro Sobrinho are supported by a wide range of professionals from the business and academic communities; for instance, Professor Kelly Chibale, from Africa’s first drug research and development centre H3D in South Africa. Professor Chibale believes African science graduates can be persuaded to remain in Africa by the availability of jobs and positions which allow them to put their expertise to good use. Without meaningful, fulfilling job opportunities African scientists will continue to seek work elsewhere.

Creating such job opportunities will require a joint effort from business and government. The private sector in particular, argues Dr Alvaro Sobrinho, will have a big role to play. This is because only the private sector has the resources and expertise to provide jobs that challenge and excite young scientists. With this knowledge in mind, Dr Alvaro Sobrinho has tailored the PhD programme he funds towards creating solutions for businesses and offers students many opportunities to work with businesses while undertaking their research.

If the brain drain is to be halted, and indeed reversed, it will be necessary for more job opportunities to be create by the private sector and the public sector. It will also require education to be focused on filling the positions that emerge, which means paying attention to the needs of businesses, as the drivers of African development.

South Africa Prepares for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The fourth industrial revolution is said to be upon us; robotics, high-levels of automation, renewable energy and a prevalence of other high-tech computer equipment in various sectors will define this era of industry, manufacturing and production.

The impact of the new economic system on Africa has been widely speculated; Dr Alvaro Sobrinho believes it presents both opportunity and challenge. On the one hand, Africa is well placed to embrace technological advances and build a modern production system, however, doing so will require a skilled workforce ready to take on the challenge.

Africa is experiencing a population boom that will bring millions of young people onto the job market every year for the next decade. In order for them to be ready for the fourth industrial revolution it is vital they receive the necessary education and training. As Dr Alvaro Sobrinho has explained, this means training young people science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Only by focusing on these areas will African graduates have the skills and knowledge to make a meaningful contribution in a high-tech, innovative economy.

South Africa has recognised the new reality and in a effort prepare itself for the coming economic reorganisation has committed to providing ICT training to all young students. In a country where nearly half the youth is unemployed a focus on science and technology in education is of particular importance. “Any initiative that seeks to empower the youth is an investment towards the future of our country”, said one South African Minister.

It is vital that other African countries follow suit and recognise the importance of promoting science and technology to their students. It may be difficult for cash-strapped countries to make this decision given that jobs in high-tech sectors may not be present in the economy today. It would be a wise investment however, given that over 60% of students starting their education today will end up in jobs that don’t currently exist.

PEI ExChange Platform Announced

On the 20th July, 2017, the charity of Dr Álvaro Sobrinho, the Planet Earth Institute, announced the launch of the PEI exChange platform. An online system for bringing together people with “big ideas” for African development and those skilled individuals who can make ideas become real.

The platform will match individuals on the basis of certain “user-identified criteria (including countries and regions of focus, industries and sectors of interest, skills and experiences)” with the intention of providing “personalised matches” that will “help turn ‘Big Ideas for Africa’ into reality”.

The PEI exChange includes an easy-to-use chat feature for quick communication between innovators and experts, and project pages where ideas will be mapped out on the ‘Big Ideas Map’. The platform is intended to “revolutionise” the way people connect, create positive change and build businesses in Africa.

The principles behind the platform stem from Dr Alvaro Sobrinho’s focus on the technological and scientific advancement of Africa as the surest path to development on the continent. This approach has been embodied by the organisational brainchild of Dr Sobrinho, the Planet Earth Institute. The PEI exChange is the most recent initiative of the Institute, which has already made significant strides supporting science and technology in Africa.

The platform will essentially provide a large number of thinkers and doers with the ability to connect, promote ideas and create change in way similar to Dr Alvaro Sobrinho, who has been using his resources and connections to make his big ideas become reality for many years. From funding research institutes, PhD’s and education initiatives, alongside supporting large scale energy and internet projects, Dr Alvaro Sobrinho has been promoting science in Africa throughout his career. The PEI exChange will give more people the chance to have similarly positive impact on the continents future.

Having been announced at the Science Africa UnConference in July, the PEI exChange is now accessible online from the Planet Earth Institute website.

Science Africa UnConference Attracts Large Audience

Over 250 people attended this years Science Africa UnConference held in Bishops Gate, London on the 20th July. The large audience was mainly composed of academics, scientists and policy professionals working in London and abroad. According to the Planet Earth Institute, hosts of the conference, the diverse audience made valuable contributions to the days workshops and discussions.

After introductions from Planet Earth Institute Chairman, Lord Paul Boateng, the audience were given a first look at the Institutes new online platform for sharing ideas and connecting people to create positive change in Africa. The PEI exChange, said the Planet Earth Institute, will “revolutionise the way people connect, do good and do business in Africa”.

The audience were then invited to share their big ideas for Africa, right then and there with the whole room. Audience members rose to the occasion, offering valuable ideas informed by their personal experience and expertise. Ideas presented dealt with continental problems and with local problems, sometimes problems of a single African community.

Once ideas had been shared the audience was given time to explore the ideas fair. Here representatives from science and technology organisations at the top of the respective fields presented their most recent innovations. Presenters included IBM, several top universities and the Global Challenge Research Fund.

In the afternoon the audience was treated to high-level presentations from guest speakers. Subjects discussed included recent science and technology innovations emerging from Africa, the need for better training in the African health sector and Ghana’s efforts to support innovative businesses.

Originally conceived by philanthropist and businessman Dr Alvaro Sobrinho, the Science Africa UnConference remained true to form in its third year of existence. Its participatory method has clearly impressed attendees, leading to this year’s high number of participants.

Spotlight Seminar Shines Light on African Health Care Crisis

The state of health care in Africa has long been on the international development agenda. The scale and complexity of the health problems the continent faces are well known; Africa accounts for nearly a quarter of global disease and the WHO estimates noncommunicable diseases (cancer, type-2 diabetes, heart disease etc.) will become the continents biggest killers by 2030.

In response to the situation, the Planet Earth Institute organised a seminar event which
“explored the public health challenges Africa faces today, as well as the scientific and technological innovations that will come to shape the area”.

Since its inception the Planet Earth Institute has made science and technology its primary focus, following the vision of its founder, Dr Alvaro Sobrinho. Now, with Dr Alvaro Sobrinho taking a less prominent role in the Institute’s day to day activities, the Planet Earth Institute continues to highlight development challenges and promote science based solutions.

The Spotlight Seminar on the Future of Public Health Care in Africa is the second in a series of seminars planned by the Planet Earth Institute. The first seminar focused on agriculture and technological tools which are already revolutionising the sector. In the second, health care became the focus, with experts from prominent institutions brought together to discuss the issues.

The main topics raised were the rise in noncommunicable diseases in Africa, the need for universal health care, traditional healthcare, and several IT based solutions to regional healthcare issues in Africa. Load Paul Boateng – who replaced Dr Alvaro Sobrinho as chairman of the Institute – facilitated the seminar and chaired the panel discussion which took place in the afternoon.

The seminar was well attended and the audience participated with enthusiasm and passion during the question and answer sessions and the panel discussion.

Conference Founded by Alvaro Sobrinho Features Heavyweights of African Science and Policy

The Planet Earth Institutes’ yearly ScienceAfrica UnConference will take place next week, featuring some of the most prominent African scientists and policymakers, along with leading voices from Africa’s business community.

African businessman and philanthropist, Dr Alvaro Sobrinho, oversaw the development of the conference from its nascent beginnings to the high-profile event it is today. As Chairman and founder of the Planet Earth Institute, Dr Alvaro Sobrinho played a key role creating and designing the format of the conference and in attracting the high-level speakers that have attended.

This year the conference focuses on how to promote, foster and grow Africa’s capacity for making contributions to science in key areas, including agriculture, water, energy and health care. The organisers are asking attendees to “help to promote the successes, showcase great ideas, address challenges and galvanise support for the continent’s science and technology pioneers.”

Over 250 people are expected to attend alongside the high-profile speakers and workshop hosts. This year’s conference features a wide variety of speakers from the scientific community, each at the top of their field. This includes Professor Kelly Chibale, Professor of Organic Chemistry at Cape Town University, Professor Maggy Momba from the Department of Environmental, Water and Earth Sciences at Tshwane University of Technology and Dr. Joe DeVries, Vice President of Innovation and Development at the Alliance for a Green Revolution.

Alongside the scientific contributions key people from business and policy circles will also share their thoughts. These include Maya Kulycky from IBM Research-Africa, Noah Samara, Chairman of recently launched education company Yamzi, Blade Nzimande, Minster of Education, South Africa, and Ibrahim Mohammed Awal, Minister of Business Development, Ghana.

The high-profile guests will deliver speeches and presentations, as well as engage in the workshops and discussions throughout the day. To learn from their experience and expertise register for the ScienceAfrica UnConference today and support the work of Dr Alvaro Sobrinho and the Planet Earth Institute though your participation.

Álvaro Sobrinho Turns Attention to Transport

Writing for the Huffington Post, Dr Álvaro Sobrinho has stated the case for private sector intervention in Africa’s ailing urban transport systems: “Private sector companies can be vital partners to African urban centres by providing financing to expand and develop low-carbon transport options,” wrote the Angolan-born investment banker and philanthropist.

Using OECD data, Dr Sobrinho points out the damage being done by air pollution in Africa, where more than 700,000 people die from air pollution each year. Traffic, power generation and industry are the three primary causes of air pollution and Africa has yet to take decisive action to curb emissions.

Given Africa’s fast rising urban population – the Brookings Institute estimates 1.2 billion Africans will live in cities by 2050, up from 400 million today – it is vital that urban transportation is improved. The World Bank believes “quality and cost-efficient transportation is one of the main challenges facing the continent’s urban centres”. The existing systems, claims Dr Sobrinho, are inefficient and too expensive for most residents.

Most African cities rely on minibus services, taxis and private vehicles. These options are neither scalable nor affordable, says Dr Sobrinho. The result is that most citizens journey by foot to their destination, a reality that is limiting their capacity to find work and be competitive. On top of this, these systems emit excessive amounts of greenhouse gases and cause immediate air pollution.

In order to redesign and rebuild Africa’s urban transport infrastructure, Dr Álvaro Sobrinho recommends turning to private sector companies, who have the financial means, technological capacity and initiative to make positive changes. He advocates the use of Green Bonds to raise capital and argues for improved STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education in order to provide the skilled workforce need to build a modern transport system.

Planet Earth Institute Shines the Spotlight on Health

After a successful initial event focused on agriculture, the Planet Earth Institute Spotlight Series is back, this time with a focus on health. Titled “The Future of Public Health in Africa” the second edition of the Spotlight series will attempt to tackle one of Africa’s most pressing and most saddening development issues.

The dire situation of health care in Africa has been highlighted by numerous health agencies and development agencies for years. Most recently, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation highlighted the issue by dedicated huge resources to curing some of the most destructive diseases found on the continent.

The Planet Earth Institute makes the situation clear, concluding, “Africa confronts the world’s most dramatic health crisis”. According to the institute, 24% of all disease is located in Africa. With only 16% of the worlds population, this figure indicates the excessive disease burden Africa is currently baring.

Though progress has been made in recent years, both in terms of treatment and prevention, “Africa still accounts for 90% of malaria deaths, 70% of all people living with HIV and 26% of all tuberculosis cases.” The weaknesses of the African health care system have also been exposed by the horrifying impact of virus outbreaks, such as Ebola.

On top of this, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates deaths from non-communicable diseases (diseases that cannot spread from human to human, a.k.a. non-infectious diseases) will surpass those from infectious disease by 2030. The causes of these deaths will primarily be cancer and type-2 diabetes.

In an effort to combat the situation the Planet Earth Institute will bring together the best and brightest minds from academia, business and government to discuss ways of overcoming Africa’s health challenges. The Institute will “be shining a light on those individuals, research groups, academic institutions and commercial organisations making scientific and technological advancements that are of benefit not just to Africa but to the world.

African Agriculture at a Crossroads

As philanthropist and businessman Álvaro Sobrinho turns his attention to agricultural development in Africa, the Planet Earth Institute takes a look at some of the most interesting aspects of the continents farming sector, the progress it has made and its distinguishing characteristics.

The Planet Earth Institute points out that agriculture currently accounts for 60% of the continents jobs. This figure demonstrates clearly just how important agriculture is to the stability of Africa. It also belies the huge potential locked in the sector, should it find ways to overcome social, political and ecological barriers and manage to become a technologically advanced sector.

Alongside the potential improvement introducing high-tech agricultural machinery and modern methods could bring, the continent also boasts most of the world’s uncultivated arable land. The Brookings Institute estimates sub-Saharan Africa contains 200 million hectares of unused arable land which could be used to produce nutritious food for the continent.

Analysing the potential of African agricultural development, the World Bank has suggested the sector will grow to be a 1$ trillion industry by 2030. This will be necessary if the continent is to avoid the dire situation being predicted by the African Development Bank, which has warned of a jump in the number of undernourished people in Africa over the next 8 years, from 240 million to 320 million. Using all available land and utilising the best agricultural technologies will be necessary to ameliorate the situation.

To achieve the gains in productivity needed to avoid the food security deficit, Álvaro Sobrinho has called for more public and private investment in African agriculture. He has argued for public investment in promising research initiatives and for new financial mechanisms to be made available to farmers who need capital to bridge gaps in revenue flows and to expand their operations.

The views of Álvaro Sobrinho correlate with those of the Planet Earth Institute, the question remains whether governments around Africa will heed the advice.

Álvaro Sobrinho turns Attention to Agriculture

Successful international businessman Álvaro Sobrinho has this week turned his attention to the issue of agriculture in Africa, a topic that has attracted the attention of aid and development agencies for decades.

Despite the attention African agriculture is still dramatically underdeveloped, as Álvaro Sobrinho is quick to point out: “The vast majority of our [Africa’s] farmers remain mired in low value agriculture, […] with subsistence farmers comprising 80% of the continent’s producers”.

This, argues Sorbinho, is a worrying reality. Especially given the alarming prediction published by the African Development Bank, suggesting some 320 million Africans will be suffering from undernourishment by 2025.

Yet the potential for African agriculture to expand and flourish is enormous. 65% of the world’s uncultivated arable land exists in Africa, points out Sobrinho. The continent already boasts numerous ‘agri-preneurs’, who are busy “translating bright ideas into reality”, providing jobs, generating wealth and revolutionising Africa’s agriculture.

Unlocking Africa’s agricultural potential, argues Álvaro Sobrinho, requires greater investment in agricultural technologies. He points to Brazil, where the government funded an agricultural research institute that went on to double the Brazilian soy yield by introducing a variety of soy that could be harvested twice a year.

If Africa is to develop an efficient and profitable agricultural sector, similar initiatives are needed in Africa, claims the Angolan business magnate, which will require commitment and investment. To achieve this innovative financial mechanisms will be necessary. Again, Sobrinho points to Brazil, where the government has supported the creation of a wide-variety of financial services to support is growing agricultural sector.

Álvaro Sobrinho concludes by quoting Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, as he calls for agriculture to become a business, not a way of life.