My top 10 for 2015
From our #ScienceAfrica UnConference to our launch in Mauritius, 2015 has been a momentous year for all of us at the Planet Earth Institute. Below are my top 10 highlights of the past year!
1) The PEI officially launches in Mauritius
On November 23, the PEI celebrated its launch in Mauritius with two events at the State House, Le Reduit. We were delighted to welcome ministers and selected representatives from private sector companies for a high-level presentation in the morning where our board gave an overview of the PEI’s work and prospective activities in Mauritius. In the afternoon, I was also honoured to see over 160 people from business, academia, missions, and broader civil society for a pubic conference on Mauritius and Africa’s scientific independence. Thanks to my board, PEI team, and staff of the State House for making our official launch such a success!
2) President of Mauritius, HE President Gurib-Fakim, becomes PEI Vice Chairman and Trustee, and Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub joins the board
I could not be happier that President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim has become our Vice Chairman and Trustee, and Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub has joined our board. Given her distinguished career as a bioscientist and businesswoman, and her passionate advocacy for a science-led development agenda for Africa, I believe that President Gurib-Fakim will help the PEI to continue to develop as an organisation, and expand our impact on the continent. Read our interview with President Gurib-Fakim here. Sir Magdi Yacoub is one of the world’s leading heart surgeons and has a strong passion for strengthening health systems in developing countries. His wisdom and expertise will also strengthen our efforts to build scientific research capacity on the continent.
3) Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund launches in June
The ‘Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund’ for Africa was launched on June 13, 2015 in an event led by Senegalese President, HE Macky Sall. The Africa Business Champions for Science, a group of influential figures from industry with a passion for STI on the continent that I chair, is contributing to the Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund with the Governments of Senegal, Ethiopia and Rwanda. The Fund will contribute to the World Bank’s Partnership for Skills in Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology (PASET) programme, which seeks to award 10,000 African PhD scholarship over ten years, to strengthen research and innovation in applied science, engineering and technology. I am very excited that the PEI in Mauritius will support the roll out of this programme, which will be operational by June next year.
4) #ScienceAfrica UnConference 2015
I was absolutely delighted to welcome nearly 200 people for our biggest ever #ScienceAfrica UnConference in July at Ravensbourne, Greenwich. Entitled ‘Africa’s scientific independence: no more business as usual’, the conference examined the role of the private sector in spurring scientific and technological advancement for the continent. We were honoured to have President of Mauritius, HE President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, now our Vice Chair and Trustee, give a fascinating keynote address on the subject. What is more, distinguished speakers at the heart of Africa’s development agenda such as Minister Naledi Pandor, Minister for Science and Technology, South Africa, Alan Kalton, Commercial Director of IBM Research-Africa, and Kasirim Nwuke, Chief, New Technologies and Innovation, UNECA, explained how to strengthen links between business and scientific communities. When I walked around the UnConference later, I was overjoyed to see our attendees actively participate in a range of stimulating workshops led by the likes of IBM Research-Africa, Elsevier, Mendeley, and UNICEF Innovation Labs, to name a few. We are grateful to our partners who are helping us build a movement for science in Africa, and whose support makes these events possible.
5) Promoting Korea-Africa development cooperation
It was my great pleasure to be invited by the World Bank and the Korea Development Institute for a two-day workshop in September. Part of a partnership between eight African governments and the Republic of Korea, the event allowed attendees to share ideas for Korea-Africa cooperation, and to learn from Korea’s astonishing development experience. I was particularly interested to learn how Korea’s astonishing economic transformation was underpinned by strong investments in science, tech and innovation, and extensive state intervention.
6) Launch of our Africa Data Challenge projects
As part of our 2014 #ScienceAfrica UnConference, the PEI held the ‘Africa Data Challenge’, a competition that invited innovators to submit their ideas for data-driven projects with a human impact. After much deliberation, my trustees chose Mary Olushoga of the AWP Project and TReND in Africa as the joint winners of the ‘Africa Data Challenge’. Both teams will receive £7000 in seed funding and our support in rolling out their projects on the continent. What I admire about these projects is that they illustrate the breadth and ambition of approaches to harnessing data for developmental impact on the continent. TReND in Africa’s project aims to foster a new generation of data analysts who have the biological grounding and analytical skills need to analyse genomics datasets. On the other hand, the AWP Network aims to empower female farmers in Nigeria to move from subsistence farming to commercially minded agricultural production. Here’s a quick look at TReND in Africa’s project. I look forward to seeing the impact that these two incredible projects achieve!
7) More organisations join the PEI Partners Forum
As a businessman, I believe that private sector and other organisations are vital partners in Africa’s scientific agenda. I am absolutely delighted that IBM Research-Africa and INTL FC Stone have joined our Partners Forum, a membership platform that is building a movement for science, technology and innovation (STI) in Africa. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about becoming a PEI partner.
8) Africa Breakfast Club meetings
Backed by our Partners Forum, my team delivered a range of stimulating Africa Breakfast Club meetings, exclusive meetings for African missions based in the UK and other individuals at the heart of the continent’s development agenda. Meetings included a look at the role of science in delivering the SDGs in Africa, the future of food security in Africa, and how STI can be a catalyst for transformation and driving force for regional integration and African countries’ transition to dynamic, knowledge-based economies.
9) FESA 19th Techno-Scientific Journeys, AngolaFrom September 29- October 2, my team participated in the 19th Techno-Scientific Journeys conference hosted by Fundação Eduardo do Santos (FESA) in Luanda. Focused on Angola in the context of Africa’s much talked about regional integration, the event was well organized with some great international speakers, including Mr. Angel Carro of the EU’s European External Action Service, Dr. Emanuel Gomes, Senior Lecturer at the University of Birmingham and our own trustee, Rt Hon Lord Paul Boateng. Here are the team’s top five takeaways from the event.
10) COP 21: Paris pact agreed
Finally, I am so pleased to hear that nearly 200 countries that took part in the COP 21 negotiations agreed to the first ever deal to commit all nations to cut emissions. As a proud African, I am glad that our countries actively participated in these talks, and hope that the deal will see disinvestment in carbon intensive business practices, and economic growth driven by greener technologies.