Monthly Archives: May, 2016

PEI Conference Update


The Planet Earth Institute (PEI) Science Africa UnConference will once again take place in London.  The event will be hosted by the PEI on September 15th and will include more than 200 delegates from a variety of business sectors, academia and policy/governance organisations.

The topic of the conference is Africa’s youth bulge, represented by 200 million Africans aged between 15 and 25. Figuring out how to find meaningful employment for these 200 million young Africans has become a pressing problem for business and policy makers on the continent. Roughly 10 million Africans enter the labour market every year and without sustained economic growth it will be difficult to find employment for them all, raising serious concerns about social stability and cohesion.

It is not only the sheer number of young Africans that pose a problem. Shifts in the nature of the African economy, brought on by the introduction of labour saving technologies such as robotics, only serve to exacerbate the problem. The PEI is well aware of the issues. Its Chairman Dr Alvaro Sobrinho has written extensively on the subject.

The PEI hopes to find ways of mitigating the problem, particularly by educating Africa’s youth so that they may find ways to contribute to an economy based on technology and innovation. The conference will explicitly focus on “new ways to create high-quality, industry relevant STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] education”.

Delegates will be invited to give their thoughts on how this can be achieved. The event will also include speeches from Dr Alvaro Sobrinho and other members of the PEI board. With luck the conference will play a key role in creating Africa’s “generation science”.

PhD Grant Launch a “proud day” for African NGO


This week saw the launch of the Planet Earth Institute PhD scholarship. Having been announced months prior, the NGO is now ready to launch its ambitious plans to fund more than 10,000 PhDs over the coming years.

Planet Earth Institute Chairman Dr Alvaro Sobrinho was at the launch event and explained the position of the NGO, “we are committed to creating a world-class PhD Programme for Mauritian scientists” he said. Alvaro Sobrinho went on to say that it was a “proud day” for the young NGO, the Planet Earth Institute.

The first phases of the PhD programme now offered by the Planet Earth Institute aims to fund a variety of scientific research aimed at providing solutions to Africa’s environmental, economic and development problems. As such, researchers with proposals relating to energy, farming, water use and health will be considered for the scholarship.

Mauritian President HE Gurib-Fakim said the scholarship represents an “exciting opportunity for Mauritian researchers”. She indicated that the grants current focus on Mauritian students is a test before the programme is rolled out across the continent; in the years to come, African students from all corners of the continent will have the opportunity to access funding from the Planet Earth Institute.

The scholarship programme has been made possible through several high-profile partnerships between the Planet Earth Institute and others; “We have partnered with the very best universities in the world in Africa and the UK” explained Alvaro Sobrinho. The fund will now look to make connections with the private sector in order to offer students the chance to undertake placements and to develop an understanding of the needs and requirements of businesses.

Applications will be open until the 31st of May, with successful applications announced at the end of June.

Business Holds the Key to Combatting Climate Change, says Alvaro Sobrinho

Banker, investor, business magnate and philanthropist Alvaro Sobrinho pulls no punches as he outlines his case for making business the primary actor in combatting climate change in Africa. Writing on sustainability, Alvaro Sobrinho said, “I believe that private sector companies are well positioned to help African countries cut greenhouse gas emissions and drive low-carbon and climate-resilient development.”

In a written article, Dr Sobrinho backs up his claim with several high-profile examples, demonstrating the crucial role businesses have to play in developing climate change mitigation technologies. In particular he points to the case of Google investing in renewable energy plants in Kenya; a project that promises to power more than 2 million homes with clean energy.

The continent has “incredible” resources of renewable energy, argues Sobrinho. However, to fully harness these energy sources high-tech, expensive equipment is necessary. Only business, suggests Sobrinho, has the available capital and know-how to create the infrastructure need to exploit these resources.

Sobrinho does not hold back in criticising investors who do not support climate friendly companies. He calls on all investors to, “review their portfolios and reduce carbon-intensive assets.” He also goes to lengths to point out that business investment in climate change solutions is not a ‘gift’. Rather it is a mutually beneficial solution that will allow all parties to reap the rewards.

Using the poignant example of African agriculture, Sobrinho explains how the relationship between business and those suffering the effects of climate change can be beneficial. Smallholder farmers stand to gain, he argues, from climate adaptive technologies, while business can supply farmers with many of the inputs they need to farm affectively.

Alvaro Sobrinho makes clear that combatting the challenges posed by climate change will require the input of international businesses, and that perhaps, their role will be crucial.

PEI STEP Initiative Two Months On

After two months in action, the Planet Earth Institute STEP initiative has continued to receive positive feedback and commendations from all corners.

In a recent interview PEI partner and STEP coordinator Dr Aman Maulloo reflected on the importance of science focused education initiatives in Africa. The state of scientific education in Africa, asserts Dr Maulloo, is reflected in the low number of students participating in STEM programmes. STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects are ranked among the lowest in terms of participation and enrolment in Mauritius, where Dr Maulloo is based.

Dr Maulloo points out that only 6% of students in Mauritius study biology, while only 20-30% of students study one or another science based course. The lack of interest in the sciences among African students must be dealt with, argues Dr Maulloo, if African nations are to have the skills and knowledge necessary to meet the coming economic, social and environmental challenges that the continent faces.

The STEP initiative, in full the Science, Technology Enrolment Programme, aims to encourage and inspire young African students to sign up for classes in STEM subjects. Organised by Planet Earth Institute (PEI) in partnership with the Rajiv Gandhi Science Centre, STEP has been visiting schools in Mauritius in the hope of inspiring students and demonstrating to them the many benefits of gaining a science focused education.

Dr Maulloo, director of the Rajiv Gandhi Science Centre, has participated directly with the programme by talking with the students and demonstrating the potential of science with live experiments.

Enthusiastically supported by Planet Earth Institute Chairman Alvaro Sobrinho, the STEP events have been a huge success so far. Students have appeared throughly engaged in the topics discussed and have expressed a great deal of enjoyment when participating in science and engineering focused group activities.

The STEP will continue visiting schools across Mauritius, though perhaps what is also necessary is an expansion of the project to other African nations.