Monthly Archives: July, 2017

Science Africa UnConference Report

Last week the NGO founded by Dr Álvaro Sobrinho, the Planet Earth Institute, hosted its annual Science Africa UnConference. The event brought together some of the biggest names in African science, education, government and business to share their ideas regarding science, technology and innovation in relation to African development.

The day included high-level presentations by guest speakers, panel discussions, workshops and networking. The day began with an introduction from Lord Paul Boateng, who recently replaced Dr Álvaro Sobrinho as the Planet Earth Institute’s Chairman, after which Nick Staite unveiled the PEI exChange, an online platform for exchanging ideas and helping them to become reality.

After the introduction of the PEI exChange the agenda led neatly on to a session facilitated by Alison Coward attendees spent a portion of the morning considering their own “Big Ideas for Africa”. During this sessions attendees enthusiastically joined the experts to exchange ideas and share information, “everyone wanted to connect, exchange ideas and drive change for Africa”, said the Planet Earth Institute. Ideas presented ranged from the local to the pan-African, from complicated science and technology to ideas created of pure simplicity.

The late morning and afternoon saw the much anticipated guest speakers taking to the stage. First up was the South African Minister for Higher Education, Honourable Minister Blade Nzumande, who discussed some of the great scientific and technological discoveries African scientists have uncovered. This presentation was followed by Maya Kulycky who talked about IBM Research-Africa’s efforts to improve healthcare on the continent using data.

Further panel discussions and workshops followed the presentations. Attendees discussed a wide-range of topics including space science and agriculture (a topic Dr Álvaro Sobrinho has also recently written about). Sir Christopher Edwards, Planet Earth Institute trustee closed the day with a few well-chosen words.

Spotlight Seminar Focuses on Health Care in Africa

Dr Álvaro Sobrinho’s charity, the Planet Earth Institute, recently hosted a Spotlight Seminar focusing on the future of public health care in Africa. The event brought together high-profile speakers from health care related fields, including research, publication and practise, each of whom shared their experience and expertise on the topic.

The speakers gave in depth analysis on the health care situation in Africa and each offered a set of solutions to commonly found problems. This format has been encouraged by Planet Earth Institute founder Dr Álvaro Sobrinho, who believes better policies, designed to promote the use of science, technology and innovation, will solve many of the problems Africa faces, not just in relation to health care.

Max Mallas Secrett, Somaliland Programme Manager at Kings College, used his talk to emphasis one problem in particular: the need for more post-graduate training opportunities for health care professionals. He pointed out the severe lack of health workers in Somaliland, a country that has only 200 doctors and a population of 4 million (to give some perspective on this figure its worth noting that the United States has just over 1 doctor per 1000 people). Post-graduate training and higher education training in general has been a focus of the Planet Earth Institute and Dr Álvaro Sobrinho. The Institute has launched several initiatives aimed at promoting higher education in Africa, including a PhD scholarship and a science enrollment programme for school children.

The Spotlight Seminars also raised the issue of financing and investment, an issue Dr Álvaro Sobrinho has often commented on in relation to African development. Samy Ahmar, Acting Head of Health for Save the Children called for “fair, progressive and transparent taxation” in order to raise the money needed to offer free at the point of care medical assistance in Africa. For his part, Dr Sobrinho has regularly called for increased private and public investment to solve Africa’s development challenges.

International Businessman Makes the Case for Investment in African Transport

Successful international investment banker, Dr Álvaro Sobrinho, has laid out a plan for improving African urban transport and boosting economic growth in the continent’s cities. The rapid urbanisation of Africa, he argues, means investment is required in transportation if African cities are to become drivers of growth and development.

Over the next 30 years, Africa’s urban population is set to swell by more than 200%. To cope with the huge increase in residents, Africa’s cities will need modern, efficient and affordable transportation. Taxis and minibuses will not suffice to meet the growing demand in a dependable way.

But making transport affordable and efficient is only one side of the story, according to Dr Álvaro Sobrinho. The new transport links must also reduce carbon emissions through energy efficiency and the utilisation of renewables. This will reduce Africa’s contribution to global green house gas emissions from transport – which currently accounts for around 15% of all emissions – and could lead to greater energy independence, as Africa boasts a huge reservoir of renewable energy.

A clean and green transport system will also improve life spans in urban areas; currently more than 700,000 people per year die prematurely as a result of air pollution. Removing dirty diesel engines from the roads would be a first step, building high-speed electric rail powered by solar farms and wind-turbines would be the ultimate goal.

To achieve this target, Álvaro Sobrinho advocates the involvement of the private sector, which he believes has the resources and technological know-how to achieve the desired outcome. In particular, the lack of necessary skills in the workforce can only be overcome by the private sector, argues Sobrinho, which has the “resources and expertise” to “help African cities equip their youth with the skills needed to deliver high quality and sustainable transport infrastructure”.

Rapid action must be taken if the necessary changes are to be realised and African transport is to become a viable investment in the future.