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PEI Holds Future Women Leaders in Science Week

furture women leaders in STEM

As part of the Planet Earth Institute’s Science and Technology Enrolment Programme (STEP), the organisation hosted a week long event for 100 secondary school students entitled ‘Future Women Leaders in STEM’.

The event brought together a diverse group of experts, speakers, teachers and workshop leaders, who presented topics such as marine science, wildlife, engineering and everyday science. The four day programme also included a session looking at the career options that studying STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) can offer.

The STEP programme, explained Dr Alvaro Sobrinho, is a way “students can experience new and exciting elements of science, and understand its huge variations, forms and potential benefits”. Ensuring that women and girls have the opportunity to benefit from and contribute to the scientific advancement of Africa is of the upmost importance.

The end of the week long event concluded with a prize giving ceremony and a closing speech from Professor Kaushik Basu, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist of the World Bank. Basu claimed that women and girls will play a crucial role in Africa’s scientific revolution. President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim echoed this view, explaining that “it is critical that we inspire young people, especially young women, to pursue the sciences and realise the difference it can make to the country and the world”.

The event was hosted at the Medine Educational Village in Mauritius and was sponsored by a variety of organisations including the Mauritius Commercial Bank, WiseOceans, Casela World Adventures and the Rajiv Gandhi Science Centre. Alongside making financial contributions several of the partners took part in organising educational activities for the 100 girls attending the event. Casela Adventures arranged hands-on activities working with animals. WiseOceans lead marine science and climate change courses, emphasising the importance of caring for the natural world.

The event ended with a prize giving ceremony. Outstanding students from the week were award prizes for the efforts by the Dr Alvaro Sobrinho, Lord Paul Boateng and Sir Magdi Yacoub.    

Business Holds the Key to Combatting Climate Change, says Alvaro Sobrinho

Banker, investor, business magnate and philanthropist Alvaro Sobrinho pulls no punches as he outlines his case for making business the primary actor in combatting climate change in Africa. Writing on sustainability, Alvaro Sobrinho said, “I believe that private sector companies are well positioned to help African countries cut greenhouse gas emissions and drive low-carbon and climate-resilient development.”

In a written article, Dr Sobrinho backs up his claim with several high-profile examples, demonstrating the crucial role businesses have to play in developing climate change mitigation technologies. In particular he points to the case of Google investing in renewable energy plants in Kenya; a project that promises to power more than 2 million homes with clean energy.

The continent has “incredible” resources of renewable energy, argues Sobrinho. However, to fully harness these energy sources high-tech, expensive equipment is necessary. Only business, suggests Sobrinho, has the available capital and know-how to create the infrastructure need to exploit these resources.

Sobrinho does not hold back in criticising investors who do not support climate friendly companies. He calls on all investors to, “review their portfolios and reduce carbon-intensive assets.” He also goes to lengths to point out that business investment in climate change solutions is not a ‘gift’. Rather it is a mutually beneficial solution that will allow all parties to reap the rewards.

Using the poignant example of African agriculture, Sobrinho explains how the relationship between business and those suffering the effects of climate change can be beneficial. Smallholder farmers stand to gain, he argues, from climate adaptive technologies, while business can supply farmers with many of the inputs they need to farm affectively.

Alvaro Sobrinho makes clear that combatting the challenges posed by climate change will require the input of international businesses, and that perhaps, their role will be crucial.

PEI STEP Initiative Two Months On

After two months in action, the Planet Earth Institute STEP initiative has continued to receive positive feedback and commendations from all corners.

In a recent interview PEI partner and STEP coordinator Dr Aman Maulloo reflected on the importance of science focused education initiatives in Africa. The state of scientific education in Africa, asserts Dr Maulloo, is reflected in the low number of students participating in STEM programmes. STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects are ranked among the lowest in terms of participation and enrolment in Mauritius, where Dr Maulloo is based.

Dr Maulloo points out that only 6% of students in Mauritius study biology, while only 20-30% of students study one or another science based course. The lack of interest in the sciences among African students must be dealt with, argues Dr Maulloo, if African nations are to have the skills and knowledge necessary to meet the coming economic, social and environmental challenges that the continent faces.

The STEP initiative, in full the Science, Technology Enrolment Programme, aims to encourage and inspire young African students to sign up for classes in STEM subjects. Organised by Planet Earth Institute (PEI) in partnership with the Rajiv Gandhi Science Centre, STEP has been visiting schools in Mauritius in the hope of inspiring students and demonstrating to them the many benefits of gaining a science focused education.

Dr Maulloo, director of the Rajiv Gandhi Science Centre, has participated directly with the programme by talking with the students and demonstrating the potential of science with live experiments.

Enthusiastically supported by Planet Earth Institute Chairman Alvaro Sobrinho, the STEP events have been a huge success so far. Students have appeared throughly engaged in the topics discussed and have expressed a great deal of enjoyment when participating in science and engineering focused group activities.

The STEP will continue visiting schools across Mauritius, though perhaps what is also necessary is an expansion of the project to other African nations.

Alvaro Sobrinho’s NGO to Award 10 PhD Grants in Association with the African Academy of Science

The Planet Earth Institute (PEI) has announced that it will join forces with the African Academy of Science to deliver 10 PhD grants over the course of the years.

The African focused NGO, which is Chaired by leading businessman and philanthropist Alvaro Sobrinho, will be offering grants for research that focuses on water resources, energy, industrial agriculture and basic science. The choice of topics has been decided by the NGO and the African Academy of Science based on the predicted challenges that Africa will face in the coming years.

Along with fitting into one of the aforementioned topic areas, each of the PhD programmes funded by the grants will be focused on industry relevant issues. The programmes will be organised with close links to industry throughout.

Alvaro Sobrinho shared his enthusiasm for working with the African Academy of Science, which he said represents an “important partnership” for the PEI. He went on to express pride in the PhD programme the partners will deliver, explaining that it would support “African students in pursuing research that addresses key developmental priorities”.

Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, PEI trustee and President of Mauritius described the PhD programme as “vital”, say that it would, “[support] African PhD students undertaking research in areas that are essential to sustainable development on the continent.”

The partnership between the Planet Earth Institute and the African Academy of Science was formalised on the 2nd April. The process to find appropriate and relevant research programmes to fund will now begin.

Science Africa UnConference to be held in London

In a press release issues last week, The Planet Earth Institute (PEI) announced the return of the Science Africa UnConference, to be held in London on July 20th of this year. The conference is in its 4th year and has been hailed as a huge success.

This year the event will be held at Ravensbourne College in Greenwich and will focus on the role of education in preparing the growing population of young people in Africa for a successful career in Africa’s bourgeoning economy.

Entitled, Generation Science: empowering Africa’s future scientific leaders, the event will host 180 distinguished guests drawn from all areas of society including academia, business and government.

The attendees will be treated to several speeches delivered by notable persons including the President of Mauritius, before being asked to divide into working groups. The guests will then be given time to discuss the issue together before being asked to offer their thoughts and solutions on the topic.

In previous years the conference has received warm reviews from guests and this years event is expected to be no different.

According the PEI the event is motivated by a desire to “stop more young Africans slipping into insecure labour and underemployment.” The organisation believes that creating “a generation empowered by an understanding and appreciation of science and technology” is the best way to achieve their goal.

Planet Earth Institute Launches Science Education Initiative

After announcing the initiative in early February, the Planet Earth Institute has reported that the launch event of their new educational initiative, STEP, received a welcome reception at Le Bocage international school on February 29th.

STEP, which stands for Science and Technology Enrolment Programme, aims to bring new meaning to the study of science to students across Mauritius. The purpose of the programme is to inspire a new generation of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates that will play a vital role in the increasingly tech based African economy.

To achieve this aim, STEP will evolve around interactive science study days at schools all across Mauritius organised by the PEI. Professionals who have studied and applied STEM subjects will be invited to give presentations to the students, giving them a chance to see a real world example of where studying science might lead them.

70 students attended the prestigious opening of the STEP at Le Bocage international school, along with high-ranking representatives from the Mauritian Ministry of Education, members of the business community and organisations including the British Council.

Two speeches were given during the opening ceremony, the first by Mauritian President HE President Dr Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, who focused on the need for talented individuals to drive development in Mauritius forward. Dr Aman Maulloo, Director of the Rajiv Gandhi Science Centre, gave the second speech. Dr Maulloo focused on the exciting career prospects students will gain access to by studying a science related subject.

Following the two speeches, students were given a demonstration of several impressive science experiments before dividing into groups to study science at with the guidance of a teacher from the Rajiv Gandhi Science Centre. The children were excited by what they learnt, many of them thanking the STEP organisers to the chance to discover science.

PEI Holds First Africa Breakfast Club of 2016

Last month African NGO the Planet Earth Institute (PEI), Chaired by Alvaro Sobrinho, held its first Africa Breakfast Club of the New Year. An ongoing event hosted regularly by the NGO, the Africa Breakfast Club invites distinguished guests from academia, government and business to give presentations to PEI members and esteemed guests.

Dr. Kamal Bhattacharya, Director of IBM Research-Africa was the first such distinguished guest to give a presentation to the Africa Breakfast Club this year. The event focused on the well-recognised link between technological innovation and economic growth and set out to shed light on how this link can be strengthened in an African context.

PEI trustee, Lord Paul Boateng hosted this edition of the breakfast club, while Dr. Kamal Bhattacharya gave a presentation on the work IMB is doing in Kenya. In particular, he spoke described how IMB is working with the Kenyan government to enhance the business environment in the country through the introduction of new technologies.

He went on to discuss other programmes IMB is running all over the continent, including a financial services system for small famers and initiatives relating to health care improvement. Dr Bhattacharya concluded that access to technology will be a driving factor in African economic development.

The next edition of the Planet Earth Institute Africa Breakfast Club will be announced in the coming weeks. After it has taken place, a summary will be posted here.

Dr Alvaro Sobrinho on the Fourth Industrial Revolution

In a recent piece written by the African businessman and philanthropist, Alvaro Sobrinho set out his vision of the fourth industrial revolution. This revolution, he explains, will be characterised by the ability of machines to interact and respond to the environment they are in. Machines such as driverless cars, smart robots and 3D printing technologies will distinguish this particular industrial epoch.

Sobrinho, a fervent advocate of technological innovation and scientific development expressed his enthusiasm for the fourth industrial revolution, claiming that is will have “the seismic effect that steam power, electricity and digital technology had in earlier centuries.”

Dr Sobrinho is especially interested in what the fourth industrial revolution will mean for Africa. He understands that the changes offer both tremendous opportunities and possible challenges.

The opportunities are clear: the introduction of revolutionary technologies could offer huge potential for improving industry and generating wealth across the African continent. On the other hand, Dr Sobrinho recognises that such technologies, when first introduced, have a tendency to disrupt existing labour markets.

The introduction of high-tech robotics could wipe out countless jobs across Africa, concedes Sobrinho, as the continents economy is largely based on low-skilled labour of the kind most easily replicated by robots.

Ultimately, Alvaro Sobrinho concludes that the fourth industrial revolution will be positive for Africa. However, he emphasises the need to reorient the labour market by increasing and improving the education given to Africans. In particular, Sobrinho advocates a focus on science and technology in African schools and universities in order to adequately prepare African students for the demands of the job market that they will find: “We need to work fast to equip our people with high-level scientific and technical competences.”

Dr Alvaro Sobrinho finished his article with a call-to-action, asking “private sector companies operating across the continent to work with African governments, universities and the broader civil society to enhance scientific research, train STEM graduates, and encourage the development of soft skills in local labour forces.”

PEI and Alvaro Sobrinho launch new STEP program in Mauritius

The Planet Earth Institute (PEI) Foundation, an internationally recognised NGO and charity with a focus on expanding the study of science in Africa is launching a new interactive study scheme in Mauritian schools.

The Science and Technology Enrolment Program (STEP) will allow students to meet with experts in various fields and understand more about the potential careers available to them as part of a drive to encourage and promote the study of science and technology in Mauritian educational establishments and strengthen connections with global institutions.

On February 29th at Le Bocage, a leading international school, HE President Dr Ameenah Gurib-Fakim and Dr Aman Mauloo – Director of the Ragiv Gandhi Science Centre, will open the inaugural STEP day. Following this and the subsequent working groups there will be at least an additional 5 days at various schools across Mauritius.

These thought provoking sessions will be complemented by a variety of workshops, field trips and visits from some of the leading individuals and institutions from across the world encouraging students to learn and be inspired by some of the latest scientific and technological innovations.

The Chairman of the PEI, Dr Alvaro Sobrinho is passionate about encouraging the study of the sciences in Africa ‘If we want to ensure that sustainable development is a reality for all, we must equip our younger generations with scientific and technological skills, and encourage them to pursue related careers. I believe that STEP will form a valuable part of the PEI’s efforts to spur scientific and technological advancement on the continent’.

For further information please contact Katy Hulands at the PEI at www.planetearthinstitute.org.uk

Alvaro Sobrinho Launches Education Scholarship Fund for Africa

Dr Alvaro Sobrinho has taken a leading role in launching a new scholarship fund aimed at furthering the advancement of scientific education in Africa. In partnership with other leading business figures from the continent, a coalition of African governments and with the support of the World Bank, the scholarship will provide funding for some 10,000 PhDs.

The partners have each pledged a substantial sum of money amounting to $5 million in total. This money will be used to pay for research done in the fields of science and engineering over the next 10 years.

Dr Sobrinho, a long-term advocate for the scientific advancement of Africa played a critical role in establishing the scholarship. Working through the newly formed African Business Champions of Science group, Dr Sobrinho was able to bring all the parties together in order to make the fund a reality.

In reference to the fund, Dr Sobrinho spoke of the need to invest in future generations if Africa is to continue to develop. He argued that, “excellence in science and technology will equip Africa with a workforce ready to compete in the 21st century.” Currently, as pointed out by Alvaro Sobrinho, when it comes to science Africa is behind in virtually every way. Africa produces the least scientific research and the least scientists.

The scholarship fund is intended to turn Africa’s scientific future around. The necessity for such as initiative has been clearly acknowledged by the World Bank, which has fully support Dr Sobrinho and his partners. The fund will become part of a broader World Bank project named Partnership for Skills in Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology (PASET), which runs many programmes aimed at the scientific advancement of Africa.

Alongside the World Bank, Dr Sobrinho gained the support and partnership of Rwanda, Senegal and Ethiopia. Each country has contributed financially to the fund and expressed full support for the goals and objectives laid out by Dr Sobrinho and the World Bank.

The scholarship fund will begin operations in June of this year.