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PEI paves way to scientific independence

Article - April 3, 2014
Nurturing scientific independence to bring sustainable prosperity to Africa
Africa possesses a wealth of natural resources that have traditionally been extracted and exported to power growth elsewhere rather than used to build industrial and technical capability within the continent itself.
Nowhere is this legacy more evident than in the paucity of opportunities at home for talented Africans wishing to devote their lives to science or even to study science. 
While 14 per cent of the global population live in Africa, the continent is home to only 1 per cent of the world’s scientists – an obvious handicap in a world increasingly driven by research and innovation.
It is the mission and ambition of the Planet Earth Institute (PEI) to transform this situation by nurturing the development of African science, technology and innovation. The President of the PEI, Dr Alvaro Sobrinho, recognises that this is “an audacious goal” but one that is “a crucial stepping-stone to.....continued economic diversification.....and to breed new technologies”.

An independent African scientific capability would become an engine for dynamic growth, responding to specific needs and opportunities within Africa itself and of the continent’s own development agenda.
The PEI has identified three pathways as key to achieving its goals. The first is higher education, the development in Africa of PhD-level research institutions, centres of excellence in African science. The first such centre is in Angola, with a second already planned for Mozambique. The Angola centre will award 100 PhD scholarships over 10 years in areas crucial to the long-term development of the continent, including natural resource use, sustainable agriculture, and environmental protection. 
The second pathway is technological innovation – the development of frontier technology in Africa using an incubation model that responds to identified market opportunities. 
The third pathway is through advocacy and policy, ensuring the voice of African science and technology is heard loud and clear.
Dr Sobrinho underscores the third objective, saying: “We need to make sure that science, technology and innovation are embedded throughout the African industrialisation process” by ensuring “the buy-in of......ministries and departments”, adding that “if Africa truly believes in the principle of sustainable development through industrialisation, we must make sure we are science and technology-led and not reliant on industrial development by foreign investment alone.”
Dr Sobrinho adds that “investing in science, technology and innovation in Africa needs bravery....but that it is the only road that leads to a sustainable, prosperous future.” The PEI has taken up the challenge with determination and with the ambition to play a leading role in creating a bright, sustainable future for the people of Africa.