Sub-Saharan Africa news in brief: 15–28 July 2010

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Below is a roundup of news from or about Sub-Saharan Africa for the period 15–28 July 2010

African Union clarifies the role of Equatorial Guinea observatory
The African Observatory for Science, Technology and Innovation, to be hosted by Equatorial Guinea, will gather data on science and technology performance on the continent and will not do original research, African Union (AU) told SciDev.Net. The reaffirmation has been necessitated by the confusion that arose after the government of the West African country announced that the observatory would "enable African scientists to come to Equatorial Guinea to present their projects and research in our own problems." This was after the signing of the deal with the AU to host the facility on 6 July. More>>

US$ 1 million boost for African research into neglected tropical diseases
Seven young African researchers from Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria and Tanzania will share the sum of 851,000 Euros (around US$ 1,100,000) for a two- to three-year period in the second round of funding under the European Foundation Initiative for African Research into Neglected Tropical Diseases. The postdoctoral researchers will study the diverse ways in which neglected diseases are transmitted; relations between tropical diseases and HIV/AIDS and how communities, ministries and aid organisations can collaborate to combat the spread of these diseases. More>>

Funding to fill critical gap in agricultural development in West Africa
The West Africa Agricultural Investment Fund (WAAIF) — said to be the first such fund promoting the growth of small- and medium-sized African seed companies — is expected to fill a critical funding gap in West African agricultural development. "Africa’s plant breeders have begun developing high-yielding, locally adapted seed that would enable farmers to double or triple their yields," said Joseph DeVries, director of seed programme at the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. "We now need a vibrant seed sector that gets these varieties to farmers. WAAIF will enable this — it is venture capital for West Africa’s seed entrepreneurs." More>>

Mobile phones give deaf African students a voice

The Child Africa International School in Kabale, Uganda, has handed out mobile phones to its deaf students in an initiative to help them learn alongside their non-deaf peers using text messaging features. "Just the fact that they have been given a phone and are taught how to use it has really improved their self-esteem," said Sacha DeVelle, founder of Cambridge in Africa, a UK-based education charity. "It has … created a bond between deaf and hearing students involved in the pairing buddy system and has encouraged the deaf students to make an effort when writing." More>>

Rwanda farmers go hi-tech in fertiliser sourcing
Farmers in Rwanda will get fertilisers at subsidised cost using electronic identity cards at nearby agro-sales points. The new system introduced by the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources is targeted at increasing farm productivity. In this project, farmers will use their ID cards to print tickets from vending machines available at agro-products dealers that will then allow them to purchase the right fertilisers at a lower price. More>>

Africa reaches half a billion mobile phone subscribers
Africa is one of the places in the world that has realised significant growth in mobile phone subscriptions. From only around 16 million subscribers in 2000, the continent now has about half a billion people using mobile phones, out of 5 billion worldwide, according to telecommunications firm Ericsson. Up to 80 per cent of people in Africa access internet via a mobile phone and the growth in the sector is expected to help economic development on the continent. More>>

Kenyan women paying the price for the lack of policy on fistula

A report has linked the high prevalence of a preventable childbirth injury, fistula, among Kenyan women to failure by the government to develop a policy to contain the condition. "Important information and services are not reaching them [poor, rural and illiterate women] and this shows that government policies that promise health care equality are not being carried out," said Agnes Odhiambo, Africa women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. More>>

Nigerian Health Experts applaud scientific technology
Some Nigerian health experts have said that science based-technology and deductive reasoning was critical to addressing many clinical problems in the West African country. Science-based medical technologies are important and there is a need for policies that will allow biotechnology to thrive in Nigeria, Folarin Gbadebo-Smith, a dental surgeon, said at a public lecture organised by the Lagos State Ministry of Health. More>>

Compiled by Ochieng’ Ogodo. Additional reporting by David Njagi and Kevin James Moore.

If you would like to suggest a story for this news in brief, please contact the Africa News Editor Ochieng’ Ogodo (ochieng.ogodo@scidev.net).