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The President of Mauritius, H.E. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, and other figures at the heart of Africa’s development agenda argued for greater efforts to equip young Africans with high-level scientific and technical skills needed to address development challenges

The comments were made at the #ScienceAfrica UnConference, a large scale event that brought together over 170 people to consider how to empower Africa’s next generation of scientific leaders

The event forms part of the Planet Earth Institute’s #ScienceAfrica campaign, which advocates for high-quality and industry-relevant science on the continent

President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim and other figures at the heart of Africa’s development agenda, argued for greater efforts to equip young Africans with high-level scientific and technical skills needed to address development challenges. The comments were made at the #ScienceAfrica UnConference, a major development conference convened by the Planet Earth Institute (PEI), an international NGO and charity working for the scientific independence of Africa, on the 14th September in London.

With science increasingly seen as a central component of the international development agenda, high-level speakers and attendees called for the creation of a ‘Generation Science’ in Africa. This refers to a generation of young Africans who are empowered by an extensive knowledge and appreciation of science and technology, enabling them to thrive in the job market today as well as in the industries of the future; lead their countries and national institutions; and help address the many challenges and opportunities African countries face, with African-led solutions. Dr. Nelson Odume, Director and Senior Researcher, Unilever Centre for Environmental Water Quality (UCEWQ), Institute for Water Research, Rhodes University, emphasised that this generation would also be able to translate ‘the outcomes of scientific research into policy and implementation’.

PEI trustee, the Rt Hon Lord Paul Boateng, argued that Africa’s well documented ‘youth bulge’ has serious implications, both good and bad, for sustainable and inclusive development on the continent. Given that 11 million young African expected to join the job market every year for the next decade, he added that science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) need to be at the heart of human capacity building efforts. Pfungwa Nyakumachi, a young researcher from South Africa interviewed by the PEI as part of the charity’s ‘Generation Science’ work, emphasised that these ‘investments go beyond lab research, and will be about creating better jobs and improving livelihoods for young people’ on the continent.

This was a point supported by H.E. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, when she noted that ‘Africa is now on the march and science has been widely acknowledged as being the vehicle of growth and development for the Continent’. She also urged African governments to invest in both basic and tertiary education.

In addition, attendees stressed the importance of creating favorable and supportive environments for the continent’s scientists and researchers to work in. Dr. Tom Kariuki, Director of the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA) outlined the Wellcome Trust-DFID run programmer, Developing Excellence in Leadership, Training and Science Initiative (DELTAS), which is investing close to $100 million in building a cohort of world-class African scientists. He added that part of the programme’s money would help its sponsored scientists buy research equipment. In addition, Kedest Tesfagiorgis, Program Officer, Grand Challenges Partnership and Advocacy at the Gates Foundation, speaking alongside President Gurib-Fakim and Dr. Kariuki during the PEI #ScienceAfrica UnConference, noted that scientific labs are the products of advocacy and politics and urged delegates to be advocates to unlock additional funding and support.

Entitled ‘Generation Science: Empowering Africa’s future scientific leaders’, the #ScienceAfrica UnConference was a highly interactive and collaborative event that explored how to help create a generation of young Africans able to benefit from high-quality and industry-relevant scientific education. Through panel discussions, workshops and interactive working groups, the event addressed issues that included harnessing the latest technologies to achieve social impact, supporting start-up businesses and young entrepreneurs, and investment in scientific research and PhD level training.

With the help of its Partners– including organisations such as IBM Research Africa, Elsevier, INTL FCStone, British Council and Nature Publishing – the PEI will be working hard to transform all the creativity, energy, ideas and enthusiasm into tangible projects and initiatives to deliver real impact on the continent.

HE Dr. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, President of the Republic of Mauritius and Vice Chairman and Trustee of the Planet Earth Institute

‘If African countries are to become thriving, knowledge-based economies, we must invest in equipping our younger populations with the scientific and technical skills they need to prosper.

I welcome the #ScienceAfrica UnConference’s calls for greater efforts to create a ‘Generation Science’ that can lead sustainable and inclusive development on our beautiful continent’.

Dr. Álvaro Sobrinho, Chairman of the Planet Earth Institute

‘Given that 60% of our countries’ population under the age of 30, young Africans are a huge, untapped resource for the African continent’s continuing development. We must not let these talents go to waste, and need to make every effort to retain our most talented young people.

I am delighted to hear that our #ScienceAfrica UnConference attendees support the Planet Earth Institute’s advocacy for high-quality and industry-relevant scientific education on the continent.

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