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  • Sub-Saharan Africa news in brief: 2–15 July 2009

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'Super sorghum' gets South African nod
A biotechnology appeal board has reversed a ruling banning the cultivation of nutrient-enhanced sorghum for research. The board allowed the 'super sorghum' to be tested in greenhouses after the Council for Scientific Industrial Research (CSIR), who put forward the application, was able to show that biosafety requirements for the trials would be met. CSIR says that, despite its drought-tolerant properties, sorghum lacks many essential nutrients — something that biotechnology can improve. More>>

Zambian labs go mobile
Zambia has introduced mobile science laboratories to bridge science education in rural areas. The programme, introduced by the National Science Centre, provides cabinets on wheels equipped with basic science apparatus that can be easily moved from one classroom to another or transported to other schools. It is hoped that the equipment will boost science learning in rural Zambia — which operates on a run-down teaching infrastructure. More>>

Rwanda to test commodities for toxins
Rwanda plans to invest in a state-of-the-art laboratory to test both local and foreign commodities for toxin contamination. It is hoped that the laboratory will curb the country's use of facilities in neighbouring countries, which is both costly and time-consuming. The Rwandan Bureau of Standards, which is establishing the laboratory, will modify its existing structures to install the new laboratory equipment. The proposed budget is yet to be approved. More>>

Desert energy project gets funding boost
African deserts could turn out to be a major source of electricity after Siemens, the global electric group, announced its intention to invest around US$560 billion in the construction of solar and wind energy units in the Sahara Desert. The project is expected to meet 15–20 per cent of the region's and European power needs by 2050. More>>  

Kenya to tackle acidic soils
Efforts to improve Kenya's 7.5 million hectares of acidic soil have commenced with a commitment of US$510,000. The programme, supported by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, will involve providing lime and fertilisers to smallholder farmers and training in the practice of conservation agriculture — resource-saving in agricultural production —in central and western Kenya. More>>

UNESCO and AU to support African science journalism
UNESCO and the African Union Commission (AUC) have agreed to collaborate on science and technology journalism training in Africa. Under the agreement UNESCO and AUC will cooperate to strengthen training through potential centres of excellence in journalism training in Africa identified by UNESCO in 2007. The overall goal is to improve the range and scale of training across the continent. More>>

Mauritius to host pan-African e-hospital
Mauritius has been selected to host the 'Super Speciality' Regional Hospital of the Pan African e-Network Project. The project will connect 53 countries of the African Union by satellite and fibre optic network including five universities, 53 learning centres, ten super speciality hospitals and 53 remote hospitals across the continent. The Mauritian hospital will be equipped with the technology and facilities to provide expert services to other hospitals connected in the region. More>>

Five African countries receive medical funding boost
Five African countries — Botswana, Malawi, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe — will benefit from a US$30 million fund aimed at facilitating health and science research in African universities. The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and the University of Liverpool will work with universities in the five countries to strengthen the research environment in African medical schools and help create postgraduate scholarships to boost homegrown research. More>>

Ugandan AIDS orphans unfamiliar with Western mental health terminology
A study conducted among Ugandan youths orphaned by AIDS has found that certain Western terminologies may not be applicable in an African cultural context. The study, published in the African Journal of AIDS Research found that most of the youths were unfamiliar with the term "mental health" even though they could easily identify factors associated with good and bad mental health. More>>

Compiled by Kimani Chege. Additional reporting by Talent Ngwande.

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