‘Mauritius as Africa’s Science Technology hub’ reads the headline in a Business Magazine article (1) written by Dr. Álvaro Sobrinho , Chairman of the Planet Earth Institute (PEI). Dr. Sobrinho believes that Mauritius has ‘everything it needs to become a continent-wide hub for cutting-edge innovation(s) and scientific discovery… especially if it engages business’. He calls for private sector entities to join him and the PEI in making the Mauritian hub a reality.
Dr Sobrinho is chairman of the PEI, a London based international NGO and charity, working towards the scientific independence of Africa. The PEI will open a local office in Mauritius, and promote Technological Innovation, Higher Education, and encourage Policy and Advocacy. Dr Sobrinho is not alone in his ambitions and has the support of The President of the Republic of Mauritius HE Dr. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, who has been appointed Vice Chairman and a Trustee of the PEI.
Harvard University Professor, Calestous Juma, writing in the New African, has suggested that African universities could become incubators for new companies. However despite Mauritius gaining recognition as a leading sub-Saharan economy in global competitiveness ( 2 ), the World Bank noted that industry relevance and the quality of higher education requires further development in Mauritius for it to become a hub for cutting edge scientific discovery and innovation.
Using the example of South Korea’s investment in scientific expertise and high-tech industry thus driving economic success, Dr. Sobrinho highlights a need for private sector support to help realign higher education in Mauritius. He advocates a number of strategies that the private sector could support, helping Mauritius achieve its developmental goals.
Firstly that the private sector could partner with the Mauritian government to support its efforts to develop and retain scientific talent through funding of post graduate training. Citing the example of the Alliance for Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA) he suggests that local funding may contribute to the pressing developmental need for Mauritius to respond to the effects of climate change. He also points out that along with generous tax incentives for returning local scientists, such investment from the private sector would bring mutual benefits through the development of an improved infrastructure on which to continue scientific growth.
Dr Sobrinho highlights the need for equality in science and reminds us of the For Women in Science programme founded seventeen years ago by UNESCO and L’Oréal. The programme promotes the greater participation of women in science, each year acknowledging five female researchers for their contribution to physical science. In 2007 current Mauritian President Dr. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim received one of these awards.
Dr Sobrinho concludes that Mauritius, with human resources available and an ambition to become Africa’s knowledge hub, should partner with the private sector to meet its goals, and the PEI will be working to help the country capitalise on its enormous potential for scientific development.