Five Ways to Advance Science and Educationin Africa

Dr Alvaro Sobrinho is chairman at UK & Mauritius based Planet Earth Institute. He is devoted to his mission to empower the continent through investment in science, technology and advanced academic training.

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  1. Africa struggles with many challenges: food and water shortages, lack of proper infrastructure, and lack of access to education. One would imagine that if the youngergeneration had access to quality higher education, Africa would be able totackle many of its current problems independently. Unfortunately, universitiesin Africa have had a difficult time simply staying in business. Lack ofgovernment funding, staff shortages and a less-than-ideal education curriculumare some of the factors preventing Africa’s tertiary education system fromleading the way in Africa’s development. Nonetheless, any long term solution toAfrica’s challenges must involve significant improvement in Africa’s education,especially the sciences. Here are five developments that can potentially helpAfrica’s next generation to become problem solvers:

  2. 1) Africa Data Challenge
    The Africa Data Challenge is an international competition that invites competitors to test their innovation skills. They mustcome up any social project they wish, but they must prove its practical application to Africa’s challenges. The prize is £7000 and support for theproject. Over 120 participants have already been involved.
  3. 2) Global Goal Nine
    A new and improved offshoot of the UN Millennium Goals, Global Goal Nine seeks to create a more equal partnership between the North and South in the pursuit of development objectives. Whereas the UN Millennium Goals were driven in their creation and implementation primarily by the North, Global Goal Nine is applicable to all countries across the North South divide. The private sector will also play a much more significant role in attaining development objectives.
  4. 3) Online Education
    Online education
    has grown in recent years, and it is no longer an option simply for those who are working full time. Distance educationhas opened up new doors for people who could not previously access qualityeducation. However, online education still requires that you have access to the internet, something that is still lacking in many parts of the world-especially in rural areas. But there is an argument that if the privileged few in Africa had access to higher quality education, this would make life better for the whole society.
  5. 4) Increased Investment
    Due to budgetary constraints and low expectations, many African governmentshave decreased spending on tertiary education. While the number of studentswishing to enrol has increased, this has resulted in lower quality education.Governments should rethink the value of investing in the future generation.
  6. 5) Make education more relevant to Africa’s needs
    Africa should focus on developing the next generation of scientists andengineers. This means that the quality of education should be improved, but there must be abalance between meeting quality according to international standards andmeeting Africa’s needs. Developing Africa’s technological capacity is crucialto empowering the countries in that continent to be able to take control oftheir own development with minimal outside aid. However, the social sciencescannot be neglected. If technological innovations are to be used to meetAfrica’s needs, those needs need to be understood. This is where the socialsciences have value, and so must not be neglected when prioritizing certainacademic disciplines for investment.

    Dr Alvaro Sobrinho firmly believes that the planned program for scientific independence is the way to drive the continent forward to a brighter future: “The Planet Earth Institute is committed to supporting Africa to become the home to great inventions and innovations.”
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