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  • Sub-Saharan Africa news in brief: 24 March-6 April 2011


Below is a roundup of news from or about Sub-Saharan Africa for the period 24 March–6 April 2011.

One-degree temperature rise may adversely affect maize
Scientists in Mexico and the United States have analysed data, originally gathered from crop trials for other purposes, to examine the effects of temperature rise on maize growing in Africa. They found that a rise of one degree Celsius could reduce yields across two-thirds of the continent's maize-growing region*, even in the absence of droughts. But they cautioned that using crop trial data "risks exaggerating the problem" because the plants in such trials are usually better-fertilised than normal maize. Under-fertilised plants tend to be hit less by heat and drought — although the new results correlate with a previous study by the US group conducted on actual harvest data. More>>

New tools for malaria control on the way
Africa and Europe will collaborate on a US$16.9 million project to develop and evaluate new techniques to curb the spread of malaria in Africa. Current interventions depend on a limited range of tools and the threat of insecticide resistance is growing. The five-year project, AvecNet — which involves 16 partners — was launched by the UK's Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) and is funded by the European Union. "We need to secure the viability of existing malaria control programmes and expand their scope and reach by developing new methods and tools based upon a vastly increased understanding of how mosquitoes behave and react in different environments," said Hilary Ranson, head of the Vector Group at LSTM and project leader. More>>

DRC Congo set to mechanise its agriculture
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has a strategy to mechanise its agricultural sector to improve food security, while boosting rural job opportunities and environmental protection. Another one of the strategy's aims is to minimise the painful physical labour carried out by women, by developing suitable equipment. "We all agree that the agricultural machinery in Africa must evolve," said Gueye Ndiaga, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) representative in the DRC, at a workshop organised by the FAO last month. "Agricultural mechanisation is a legitimate desire of farmers who hope, by this means, to alleviate their pain and increase revenue." More>>

Africa's ICT growth taking centre stage in economic development
Africa's information and communications technology (ICT) sector has witnessed substantial growth over the last decade, according to UN magazine Africa Renewal. In some countries, such as South Africa and Tanzania, the 'information economy' is becoming a key factor in their economic growth. Investments in mobile phones on the continent grew from US$8.1 billion in 2005 to almost US$70 billion currently. Many countries have now adopted "ambitious" ICT plans. Kenya hopes to turn its country into a "regional ICT hub" and has extended ICT coverage to rural areas by reducing mobile phone banking charges, among other measures. More>>

Nigeria to become 'digital economy' by 2020, says president
Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan says that the country is on track for meeting the Vision 2020 target of becoming one of the 20 largest economies in the world. In a speech — read on his behalf by Alhaji Baba Umaru Farouk, permanent secretary of the Federal Ministry of Youth Development — made at the tenth anniversary of the country's Youth Empowerment and ICT Foundation last week, the president said that the Nigerian government "has embraced many initiatives aimed at digitally empowering Nigerians to tap into the digital economy". He added that "the federal government has for [a] long [time] accepted the reality that no nation can successfully compete and grow her economy without an equally strong focus on youth engagement with digital economy". More>>

Editorial cautions against introduction of GM foods in Ghana
Ghana's government has been warned to not succumb to external pressures to accept genetically modified (GM) foods, by an editorial in Ghanaian news organisation Public Agenda. It said that Western countries have "aggressively" promoted GM as the solution to global food insecurity — although citizens in many of them "do not consume such food themselves". It also warned that, as of yet, there is no global consensus on GM, and that such foods will "impoverish" Ghana's farmers and leave them dependent on multi-national seed companies. More>>

South Africa to receive high-tech microscope for nanotech research
South Africa's nanotechnology ambitions are set to receive a boost with the acquisition of a world-class High Resolution Transmission Electron Microscopy instrument, according to science and technology minister Naledi Pandor. The microscope will be commissioned later this year, and will be located at the country's Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. South Africa has also set up nanotechnology innovation centres at its two main science councils: the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and Mintek. More>>

Partnering with private sector to boost students' employability
Rwanda's Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) has announced that it is seeking partnerships with private companies in the country to develop its students' practical skills and increase their chances of getting a job following graduation. "We want to open links between KIST and industries in Rwanda, especially in the areas of engineering, applied sciences and architecture," said John Mshana, vice rector of KIST. More>>

Compiled by Ochieng' Ogodo.

If you would like to suggest a story for this news in brief, please contact the Africa News Editor Ochieng' Ogodo ([email protected]).

*Updated, to correct an error, on 11 April 2011

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