Monthly Archives: August, 2017

Africa Needs Scientific Infrastructure

The issue of the African ‘brain drain’ phenomena has been on the development agenda for more than a decade. Highly educated Africans have a tendency to migrate to better developed areas of the world where opportunities are more numerous and pay is higher. The impact on their home countries has been devastating (though its worth noting that remittances to Africa play a significant part in generating many countries foreign reserve capital and supporting poor families) as a serious lack of professionals has meant key services are unstaffed, in particular health care services.

International NGOs and governments have attempted to resolve the situation using several strategies but with little success. Dr Alvaro Sobrinho, the Planet Earth Institute and many other experts are now calling for a new approach. Specifically, these experts claim “African countries lack the infrastructure and entrepreneurial support needed to retain science graduates”. If young professionals are to be persuaded to stay in Africa, the continent needs to offer them the opportunities and resources they would find elsewhere.

Dr Alvaro Sobrinho has called for governments to increase domestic spending on science and technology and to work with private business to create an innovative business environment that gives graduates the chance to use their skills. This perspective is shared by Kelly Chibale, Professor of Organic Chemisty at the University of Cape Town; Chibale said that by “allowing people to put to work the training they’ve received, we can reverse brain drain.”

For his part, Professor Chibale returned to Africa after completing his PhD in the UK. He now heads up the Drug Discovery and Development Centre, H3D, which is working on a new anti-malaria drug. For more scientists to follow in the footsteps of Chibale a broader scientific infrastructure must be created, policy makers will be at the forefront of achieving this goal.

Scientists in Africa Need Urgent Support

Dr Álvaro Sobrinho is a long-time advocate for science in Africa; he has played a pivotal role supporting science in Africa as founder and chairman of the Planet Earth Institute, and he continues to support science education and technological development on the continent. Yet African scientists continue to lack the support they desperately need; and without more committed patrons like Dr Álvaro Sobrinho they will only ever survive rather than thrive.

This is particularly the case in South Africa, a country that despite some successes has failed to significantly expand is science and technology sector in recent years. This is partly due to the lack of adequate funding and opportunities for young scientists to pursue their subject with passion.

In South Africa it is estimated that nearly 48% of all young people are currently unemployed; as Dr Álvaro Sobrinho has often pointed out, improving educational opportunities and providing young people with the skills and experiences they need to be relevant in a modern, tech-based job market, is a sure way to find meaningful, fulfilling employment for young people.

This notion has not been lost on the South African government, which recently indicated its intention to focus on ICT training and education for young people. Minister Radebe, who is heading up the ICT education project, said “we must raise a new generation of young people that will not be job seekers but job creators”. Dr Sobrinho has offered a similar message on numerous occasions, arguing for the creation of a “generation science”, a generation of African graduates ready to lead Africa into a bright future through the application of innovative, home-grown science and technology.

Education will be the key component in creating generation science, as Dr Alvaro Sobrinho has repeated pointed out. Without access to high-quality STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education young Africans will fail to aquire the skills they need to be useful as the fourth industrial revolution takes hold.

Government and industry must work together to provide the funding and opportunities necessary for young African scientists to thrive and not just survive. Only then will Africa be able to embrace the fourth industrial revolution and create a brighter future for South Africa and the entire continent.

PEI exChange Launched by Alvaro Sobrinho NGO

NGO founded by philanthropist, banker and investor, Alvaro Sobrinho, has launched an online platform that will improve the way people “do good and do business in Africa” by connecting likeminded individuals who have big ideas and relevant skills.

The platform, provided by the Planet Earth Institute, will use an algorithm to match people from the same area, industry, interest and expertise in order for them to communicate, share ideas and problem solve together. The Institute hopes this will facilitate the innovation and technological breakthroughs Africa needs in order to thrive in the 21st century.

The latest in a long line of initiatives aimed at promoting the scientific advancement of Africa offered by the Planet Earth Institute, the PEI exChange will help make “big ideas for Africa a reality”. Alongside connecting individuals and facilitating the development of ideas, the PEI exChange will help good ideas find the necessary funding, an essential component of the process.

Alvaro Sobrinho’s work with the Planet Earth Institute has centred around education, which he views as a means to equip Africans with the skills they will need to become leaders in science and technology and thereby ensure a bright future for their continent. Sobrinho has advocated for, and in some cases financially supported, the introduction of new technology to Africa, in particular wireless internet and renewable energy. Alvaro Sobrinho has also made a compelling case for the reinvention of African agriculture, a renewal of the public transport system and a redesign of education funding.

The launch of the PEI exChange by the Planet Earth Institute can be viewed as an attempt to give more Africans the chance to shape their continent in the way Alvaro Sobrinho has been doing. By utilising bright ideas coming from Africans, for Africa, the continent will be able to reveal its full capacities in the 21st century.