Planet Earth Institute End of Year Round Up

Celebrating a year in the development of Africa’s scientific capabilities, the Planet Earth Institute has published an end-of-year round up documenting the major successes of 2016. The organisation has gone from strength to strength over the course of the year, creating new partnerships with prestigious organisations, successfully launching several new programmes and hosting prominent, development focused events.

The Planet Earth Institute was particularly proud of launching the HE Ameenah Gurib-Fakim PhD Scholarship Programme, which had been in the pipe line for some time. The programme awarded the first 10 PhD scholarships during the summer. Over the next decade the Planet Earth Institute hopes the programme will fund a total of 10,000 PhDs, with more funding released each year.

The Institute reached out to high school students for the first time with the Science, Technology Enrolment Programme (STEP), which hosted interactive study days in schools and around Mauritius and Angola. The programme aims to rectify the low enrolment rates into science and mathematics tracts by African students. The Institute believes that a high-quality science education will ensure that African students have the skills they need to thrive in Africa’s fast developing economy. Having reached some 500 students in 2016, the Planet Earth Institute hopes to reach many more in the coming year, particularly in Angola, where the programme has only just begun.

Encouraging young Africans to pursue a scientific career was also the topic of a conference hosted by the Planet Earth Institute in London. The conference brought together a wide variety of experts, government officials and business leaders to discuss the creation of a new generation of scientific leaders in Africa. A day of speeches, lectures, presentations and workshops were organised, including a speech from Planet Earth Institute chairman, Dr Alvaro Sobrinho.

Finally, the Planet Earth Institute received a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to drum up funding for research and development on the continent. This project will be carried out in 2017, along with the continuation of the scholarship programme, STEP and the Planet Earth Institute’s other ongoing campaigns.

Dr Alvaro Sobrinho “delighted” by STEP in Angola

Dr Alvaro Sobrinho declared his delight at the launch of STEP (Science, Technology Enrolment Programme) in Angola. The Chairman of the Planet Earth Institute, international banker and philanthropist, explained the purpose of STEP in Angola as providing “essential practical scientific and English language training to young people in Angola”.

The Planet Earth Institute pioneered STEP in Mauritius, where the organisation has an office and a solid base of support. The programme hosted 7 events over the course of the year, reaching nearly 500 young students. STEP was well received by participants and lauded by Dr Alvaro Sobrinho and Mauritian President, Her Excellency Ameenah Gurib-Fakim.

The very first STEP event in Angola was attended by some 140 children on the island of Mussulo. Partnering with local development organisation Aldeia das Artes, the Planet Earth Institute arranged a collection of science and language focused activities for the children. The programme is design to inspire young students to pursue a career in science, engineering or mathematics.

Students were given hands-on experience with scientific techniques including paper chromatography and introduced to scientific concepts such as air resistance and static. In an effort to improve the students grasp of English, the sessions were given in English and translated into the students native tongue.

The final day was given over to the production of a musical production conducted by the children, recounting all the things they had learnt over the previous days. The event was immensely enjoyed by all those participating. Ana Madaleno, founder of Aldeia das Artes, explained the importance of the event saying it was about promoting the “social inclusion of children of the island by teaching community values ​​and breaking social barriers”.

Dr Alvaro Sobrinho described the partnering charity, Aldeia das Artes as “outstanding” and expressed his enthusiasm for future STEP events in his homeland, Angola.

STEP Study Day Focuses on Space Technology

Earlier this week, the Planet Earth Institute hosted a STEP (Science and Technology Enrolment Programme) study day focused on space technology. The day of interactive learning was held at the Northfields International School, Mauritius.

Led by Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock, space scientist and TV presenter, 50 students between the ages of 13-14 were given the chance to gain hands-on experience and knowledge of space exploration technology. The day-long learning event was opened by a welcoming speech from Mauritian President, and Planet Earth Institute Vice-President, HE Ameenah Gurib-Fakim.

Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock began with a presentation on the solar system, before moving on to explain the importance of space science for our everyday lives, focusing particularly on the role of satellite technology. The discussion was followed by hands-on activities, with HE Ameenah Gurib-Fakim joining to speak directly with the students.

The space science focus of the day stems from the recognition that African development will hinge on the continents ability to utilise space science technology. This is because many modern technologies depend on a functioning space based infrastructure. Satellite technology, for example, is used to maintain a wide-range of services, including communications for financial transactions, telecommunications, mobile communications and the internet.

In January of this year, the African Union signed into existence the African Space Policy and Strategy, which details how the organisation intends to support research and development in space technology and services in Africa. Given the growing importance of space science, it seems only logical that the Planet Earth Institute make space science the theme of a STEP education day.

Over the course of the year, STEP has hosted 7 study days, engaging with more than 500 students in Mauritius. Dr Alvaro Sobrinho explained that STEP “helps to foster a deeper understanding of the sciences among Mauritian secondary students”. The programme coordinators hope to inspire young African students to pursue a career in the sciences, with each STEP study day focusing on a new and exciting topic.

Planet Earth Institute Receives Important Grant from Gates Foundation

The African focused NGO, the Planet Earth Institute (PEI) has been awarded a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to pursue its objectives in Africa. The PEI will use the funding to create a campaign aimed at finding resources for research and development on the African continent. In particular, the NGO seeks to marshal capital for investment in science and technology.

The grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will make a significant contribution to the ongoing efforts of the PEI to advance the scientific capabilities of Africa. The charity believes that improving Africa’s science, technology and engineering capacity is the only way to overcome the myriad development challenges the continent faces.

The PEI has focused on primarily on promoting scientific education, funding a range of initiatives from secondary school educational days to committing to fund thousands of PhD programmes over the coming decade. The new campaign will be notably different from the organisations prior work, focusing on generating funding by persuading governments, financial institutions and private capital to coalesce around the shared goal of funding scientific development in Africa.

The campaign will be lead by PEI Chairman, Dr Alvaro Sobrinho, and Deputy-Chair, President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim. In a statement on the project, H.E. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim pointed out that, “Africa produces less than 2% of the world’s scientific research”, indicating the dire situation on the continent at present. In light of this fact, President Gurib-Fakim described the new campaign as “vital”.

Meanwhile, Dr Sobrinho expressed his gratitude towards the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for recognising the importance of supporting research and development in Africa. He pointed out that while Africa has seen economic development in recent years, “scientific and technological output has not kept pace.” Investing scientific research will help to restore the balance.

Planet Earth Institute Launches STEP in Angola

As part of a broader strategy to promote the scientific advancement of Africa, the Planet Earth Institute launched a high-school focused education initiative, aimed at promoting scientific learning to students. The organisation hopes the programme will encourage young African students to pursue an education in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects. The Planet Earth Institute believes a STEM education is the best way for young Africans to prepare themselves for the technology based economy they will enter.

The Science and Technology Enrollment Programme (STEP) first launched in Mauritius earlier this year. After a successful start, the Planet Earth Institute has now announced the launch on STEP in Angola, the birthplace of the organisation’s Chairman, Dr Alvaro Sobrinho. Through his spent most of his youth in Portugal, Dr Sobrinho returned to Angola to direct a branch of Banco Espirito Santos.

Due to Dr Sobrinho’s connection with the country and its unique development needs, the Planet Earth Institute has already focused a great deal of attention on Angola. The Institute contributed to the creation of a research institute at one of the country’s universities and recently announced plans to fund Angolan PhD candidates. The launch of STEP in Angola is therefore the most recent of several efforts by the Planet Earth Institute to aid the country.

The first event of STEP in Angola will take place at the beginning of September. Working in partnership with Aldeia das Artes – Meninos do Mussulo, an Angolan based charity, the Planet Earth Institute hopes to deliver education and the opportunity to learn skills to more than 1500 students across the country. This event will be followed by hands-on activity days on the 14th and 15th of December. Students will be encouraged to take an interest in science, technology and even the English language.

The Planet Earth Institute intends to hold regular STEP events in Angola henceforth. All events will focus on promoting science and science based learning to the students involved.

PEI Outlines the Way Forward for African Education

Committed to African development, the Planet Earth Institute (PEI) has become deeply involved with improving the quality of higher education in Africa. From funding a research centre in Angola to creating a funding initiative that promises to deliver 10,000 PhD scholarships over the next decade, the PEI is laying the groundwork for a 21st Century education revolution in Africa.

Following the guidance of its Chairman, Dr Alvaro Sobrinho, the PEI maintains a keen focus on science, technology and innovation. The scholarships funded by the PEI are focused on several key areas, including energy, water, health and agriculture. The organisation is choosing candidates with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The combination of these fields is today referred to, in short, as STEM subjects.

The PEI believes that improve STEM research in Africa is essential if development challenges are to be overcome. Not only does STEM research tackle some of the biggest issues facing Africa, such as water shortages, inadequate health care and inefficient agriculture, it also offers a way to overcome the African youth bulge. Millions of young Africans are expected to join the labour market every year for the next 10 years, 100 million in total. Finding useful and fulfilling employment for them will depend largely on their education and the opportunities it offers. With a background in STEM subjects, graduates will have no problem finding positions working for dynamic private sector companies.

In order to bring STEM education in Africa up to the necessary standards, the PEI offers several recommendations. Firstly, to build stronger links between the private sector and universities. This will enable universities to understand the needs of businesses and educate their students accordingly. Secondly, universities should pay close attention to labour markets and ensure their programme will produce graduates that the market is looking for. To create the best, most innovative scientists Africa should set up Centres of Excellence, where resources can be pooled and best practises developed.

Following the outline from the PEI will create a progressive, dynamic educational sector in Africa, which can contribute to combating the eclectic range of issues facing the continent, while making the lives of individuals more fulfilling.

Dr Alvaro Sobrinho Comments on Development Bonds

Last week, during a piece for Development Finance, Dr Alvaro Sobrinho shared his thoughts on how the Sustainable Development Goals (a.k.a. Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development) could be successfully financed through a combination of philanthropy, government aid and business investment.

Dr Sobrinho focused chiefly on the third pillar, business investment, given that governments have already made their commitments and philanthropy, such as his own, remains willing and available. In total, the achievement of the 17 specific goals encapsulated under the agenda for Sustainable Development will cost a staggering amount of money to achieve. It is expected that nearly $4 trillion a year will be needed for the next 15 years to bring developing nations out of poverty and put them on the path to real development.

In Africa, argues Alvaro Sobrinho, the gap between the amount needed and the amount available is particularly obvious. One estimate suggests that over $90 billion a year is needed to fund necessary infrastructure projects. Sobrinho estimates that just over half of this investment will come from governments and philanthropy, while rest, he argues, must come from private finance.

Dr Sobrinho believes a suitable investment vehicle for private financiers are Development Impact Bonds (DIBs). These bonds are available for projects with a specified development goal in mind. They require private finance to invest capital in development projects on the agreement that they will not see a return until clear-cut, pre-agreed goals are met. Once this situation occurs, private investors are remunerated by donors and governments.

One area that could benefit from DIBs is education, suggest Dr Sobrinho. One such DIB already exists, funding an NGO that aims to improve the enrolment of girls in schools. Yet the model could be applied more broadly, even targeting African universities, which are in need to capital to expand their services and capacity.

Dr Sobrinho concluded by calling on private finance to step up and play its part in funding Africa’s development.

Planet Earth Institute Attends 20th Technic-Scientific Journeys Conference

Over the last week, the Planet Earth Institute (PEI) attended and participated in the 20th Technic-Scientific Journeys Conference in Luanda, Angola, after being invited by the Fundação Eduardo dos Santos (FESA). The conference focused on key development challenges facing the nation, particularly in the context of a country attempting to rebuild after a devastating civil war.

In light of the situation, the FESA declared the theme of the conference to be, “Angola’s experience in the national reconciliation process, National Reconstruction, and Social Welfare.” The presentations were especially focused on the Angolan context and covered topics such as globalisation, the environment, development, society and politics from an Angolan perspective.

Two PEI trustees, Lord Paul Boateng and Sir Christopher Edwards attended the conference as representatives of the Institute. Both delivered well-received presentations advocating investment in science based education initiatives as a means of boosting development and nurturing a high-tech, competitive economy.

Lord Paul Boateng also commented on the process of African integration, warning the continent not to copy models tried elsewhere but to focus on a union that meets Africa’s specific needs. He referenced the British experience with Brexit as a lesson to be carefully observed by African states contemplating further integration.

He colleague, Sir Edwards, concentrated his presentation on science and education in Angola. He also used the platform to announce the PEI’s Eduardo dos Santos PhD Scholarship Programme, which will be launched in Angola later this year. The scholarship will be the latest in a string of similar programmes launched by the Institute under the guidance of the organisations chairman, Dr Alvaro Sobrinho.

Dr Alvaro Sobrinho Awarded Doctorate from University of Middlesex

Last month Dr Alvaro Sobrinho, Chairman of the Planet Earth Institute, distinguished businessman and philanthropist, was awarded an honorary doctorate for his contributions to African science and development by the University of Middlesex, Mauritius.

The doctorate was presented to Dr Sobrinho by the University’s vice-chancellor, Professor Tim Blackman in recognition of the huge contribution Dr Sobrinho has made, and continues to make, to the scientific advancement of Africa. During the last few years, Dr Sobrinho has taken part in setting up PhD scholarship programmes that hope to fund some 10,000 PhDs in the next 10 years, funded the building of research facilities and set up an education programme aimed at promoting science to young African students.

On top of his work with Planet Earth Institute, Dr Sobrinho has been vocal in his support of technological development in Africa. He has used his position to encourage governments, NGOs and businesses to focus their resources on furthering science, technology and innovation on the African continent, speaking out in numerous publications.

Prior to receiving his doctorate, Dr Sobrinho took part in the University’s sixth graduation ceremony. Dr Sobrinho described his “absolute pleasure” at being invited to attended the ceremony, describing an atmosphere of celebration and pride. A total of 310 students were awarded their undergraduate or post-graduate degree during the event.

Mauritian President, HE Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, also in attendance at the ceremony, offered a few words of wisdom to students and university staff alike, “In today’s competitive world,” she began, “it is crucial to keep on learning, unlearning and relearning to remain relevant…that will ensure success in the global market.”

After a rousing speech from Professor Blackman, in which he proudly expounded the qualities of the university, several honorary doctorates were handed out, including Dr Sobrinho’s.

Last month Dr Alvaro Sobrinho, Chairman of the Planet Earth Institute, distinguished businessman and philanthropist, was awarded an honorary doctorate for his contributions to African science and development by the University of Middlesex, Mauritius.

The doctorate was presented to Dr Sobrinho by the University’s vice-chancellor, Professor Tim Blackman in recognition of the huge contribution Dr Sobrinho has made, and continues to make, to the scientific advancement of Africa. During the last few years, Dr Sobrinho has taken part in setting up PhD scholarship programmes that hope to fund some 10,000 PhD’s in the next 10 years, funded the building of research facilities and set up an education programme aimed at promoting science to young African students.

On top of his work with Planet Earth Institute, Dr Sobrinho has been vocal in his support of technological development in Africa. He has used his position to encourage governments, NGOs and businesses to focus their resources on furthering science, technology and innovation on the African continent, speaking out in numerous publications.

Prior to receiving his doctorate, Dr Sobrinho took part in the University’s sixth graduation ceremony. Dr Sobrinho described his “absolute pleasure” at being invited to attended the ceremony, describing an atmosphere of celebration and pride. A total of 310 students were awarded their undergraduate or post-graduate degree during the event.

Mauritian President, HE Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, also in attendance at the ceremony, offered a few words of wisdom to students and university staff alike, “In today’s competitive world,” she began, “it is crucial to keep on learning, unlearning and relearning to remain relevant…that will ensure success in the global market.”

After a rousing speech from Professor Blackman, in which he proudly expounded the qualities of the university, several honorary doctorates were handed out, including Dr Sobrinho’s.

Generation Science Announced by Planet Earth Institute

Vice Chair of the Planet Earth Institute, and President of Mauritius, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, announced a push towards Generation Science at the Planet Earth Institute Science Africa UnConference, hosted at the Kensington Town Hall, London, on September 14th.

H.E. President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim called upon attendees of the conference to join her in finding ways to promote scientific education to young Africans. She hope that by offering high quality educational opportunities to Africa’s youth, the continent can equip them with the knowledge and skills they need to go on to be innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders in their respective nations.

The conference underlined the fact that 10 million young Africans will enter the labour pool every year for the next 10 years. 100 million young Africans in need of work and ready to contribute to their country. H.E. President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, along with her friend and colleague Dr Alvaro Sobrinho, view the situation as both a danger and an opportunity. On the one hand, 100 million young Africans must find a way to earn a living. On the other, if given the right support the younger generation could become a driving force that launches Africa into a new era of development and growth.

To ensure that the latter occurs, H.E. President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim suggests funding science based education across the spectrum, from elementary level to university. By adequately preparing the young for the kind of economy they will find themselves a part of will allow them to lead the continent into the 21st Century. Following this strategy, argues H.E. President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, will allow African countries to “become thriving, knowledge-based economies”.

Her call was backed by Dr Alvaro Sobrinho who said he hopes that attendees of the conference will, “support the Planet Earth Institute’s advocacy for high-quality and industry-relevant scientific education on the continent.”