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.