The Planet Earth Institute, an African development NGO based in London and Mauritius, hosted a conference in London on the problem of, and solutions to, the African youth bulge. Demographers have estimated that roughly 11 million young Africans will enter the labour market every single year for the next 10 years. This huge influx of people into the African economy will require innovative solutions backed by government policy to prevent disaster. Equally, the situation offers a unique solution for Africa to capitalise on the brain and labour power of its young generation. The Planet Earth Institute and its Chairman, Alvaro Sobrinho, have explored the topic in detail.
Writing in the Huffington Post, Alvaro Sobrinho called for businesses to partner with government to provide education and training to the millions of young Africans expected to enter the market in the coming years. Alvaro Sobrinho believes that if young Africans are trained in the sciences and other STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects, not only will they find employment for themselves, but they will be able to make a significant contribution to African development.
Alvaro Sobrinho is not the first to call for increased educational opportunities for African youths. There have been many initiatives carried out in the past, many of which have been extremely successful. Despite this, Africa is still vastly underrepresented globally in the sciences. The continent has one of the lowest levels of contribution to science and one of the lower levels of scientists per capita. The situation is not due to a lack African scientists however. It is due to the fact that many African scientists choose to leave the continent and seek more lucrative positions elsewhere; this process is known as brain drain.
The African brain drain is a well documented phenomenon. As a solution to the brain drain, Alvaro Sobrinho argues against education schemes that demand participants remain in the country where they were educated for a certain number of years, instead he proposes that business and government in Africa create an environment that encourages scientists to stay. He argues that the best way to keep intelligent young minds at home is to make them “proud” to be there.