Monthly Archives: September, 2016

African Youth Bulge and the Threat of Brain Drain


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.

Alvaro Sobrinho Attends Planet Earth Institute Conference

The long-awaited ScienceAfrica UnConference took place in Kensington Hall, London, less than a week ago. Attended by more than 150 guests the conference has been hailed as a success by hosting organisation, the Planet Earth Institute.

Several prominent members of the Planet Earth Institute attended the conference, including Alvaro Sobrinho, Lord Paul Boateng and H.E. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, president of Mauritius. Each on of them made a unique contribution to the day’s events, starting with Lord Paul Boateng, who explored the pros and cons of the African youth bulge. He concluded that, with more than 10 million young Africans expected to enter the labour pool every year over the next decade, “it is crucial that science, technology, engineering and mathematics are at the heart of human capacity building.”

Lord Paul Boateng was followed by a speech from pioneering philanthropist and businessman, Alvaro Sobrinho, the Chair of the Planet Earth Institute. After welcoming guests to the conference, Alvaro Sobrinho talked about the role of the Planet Earth Institute, explaining its mission to achieve the scientific advancement of Africa. He finished up by introducing H.E. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim to the audience, describing her as “one of Africa’s great visionaries.”

H.E. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim spoke alongside Kedest Tesfagiorgis from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Dr. Tom Kariuki, the Director of the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa, on a high-level panel led by Lord Paul Boateng. The panel focused on inspiring ‘generation science’ in Africa, a key theme of the conference and an important subject for the Planet Earth Institute, which has been running programmes aimed at inspiring students to study science based subjects.

The conference was concluded by Planet Earth Institute trustee, Sir Christopher Edwards, who summarised the key themes and insights touched on during the day. He finished off by reminding the audience of the great importance of the themes discussed during the day, not just to African, but the world in general.

British Council to Join DFID and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on the PEI Conference Schedule

With the Science Africa UnConference fast approaching, the Planet Earth Institute have announced yet more leading organisations to the ranks of the conference presenters. Joining the recently announced additions of the Department For International Development (DFID), represented by Professor Charlotte Watts, Kedest Tesfagiorgis from the Grand Challenges Programme at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Dr Thomas Kariuki from the African Academy of Science, will be the reputable British Council.

The British Council is responsible for building strong and amicable ties between the United Kingdom and the rest of the world. The Council operates in over 100 countries, running educational programmes, cultural events and English language courses for thousands of people. From its headquarters in Trafalgar Square, London, the organisation builds links between UK based science and technology institutions and their counterparts in foreign countries.

Originally, the British Council was named the British Committee for Relations with Other Countries; established in 1934, the name was officially changed in 1936. Since then the Committee has been known as the Council. Their broad and numerous activities have, over the years, established the organisation as a distinguished and essential part of UK development initiatives and foreign relations. At the conference next week, representatives from the Council will discuss a new project that they are managing on behalf of DFID, the Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education Innovation and Reform (SPHEIR) programme.

The SPHEIR programme is aimed at improving higher-education in specific developing nations, in particular, countries located in the underdeveloped sub-saharan region, the middle east and parts of Asia. The programme has been allocated £45 million by DFID and will play an important role in stimulating and regenerating higher-education in the regions where support is most needed.

To hear form the staff at the British Council, along with their colleague Professor Charlotte Watts from DFID, join the the conference next week. Tickets are available online from the Planet Earth Institute website.