Sub-Saharan Africa tech news in brief: 10–23 February 2011

Below is a roundup of tech news from or about Sub-Saharan Africa for the period 10–23 February 2011

New soybean varieties changing farmers’ fortunes in Kenya
More than 3,000 farmers in western Kenya have had their incomes tripled through a new project delivering superior soybean varieties. The Mumias Soybean Project, part of a bigger continental initiative, has developed drought and disease tolerant varieties that yield up to 1,200 kilogrammes per hectare — compared with as low as 200 kilogrammes — and mature in 90–135 days. The project also encourages farmers to sell produce to their local markets and processors, and get involved with the Soybean Farmers Association to make flour, nuts, milk and other soy products. More>>

Local radio can be effective tool for agri-biotech communication
Radio could play a powerful role in communicating agricultural biotechnology, according to a range of stakeholders who took part in a three-month campaign. During the campaign, programmes were aired in three vernacular radio stations located in areas where biotech crops are expected to be introduced. At an experience-sharing workshop organised by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, stakeholders showed strong support for the medium. More>>

Nigeria to construct Africa’s largest science park
Nigeria’s National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP) and Abuja Geographic Information Systems have formalised an agreement to build Africa’s largest science and technology park in Abuja. Umar Bindir, director-general of NOTAP, said the aims of the park — which will be known as the Africa Premier Innovation Corridor — are to boost collaboration between science and technology stakeholders in the area and to promote research and development for the country’s economic growth. More>>

East African countries locked in dispute over hosting their science commission
A dispute has arisen among the East African Community (EAC) member states over where to host the region’s Science and Technology Commission. According to a senior EAC official, the decision has proved especially difficult because two member states are neck-to-neck in the bid to host the commission. “This has clearly made us revisit the criteria for the hosting of these institutions,” he said. As a result of the row, the EAC Sectoral Council on Education, Science and Technology, Culture and Sport has directed the secretariat to prepare terms “for a comprehensive analysis on how best the Community will address the issue of equitable distribution of benefits and present the same to the partner states”. More>>

Kenya adopts low-sulphur diesel
Kenya launched its transition to low-sulphur diesel last Friday at the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) headquarters — a move that is expected to influence the consumption of cleaner, greener energy in the transport sector. The East African country hopes to tame harmful emissions from the transport sector and cut spending on pollution- induced health problems. According to the UNEP, Sub-Saharan Africa could save US$6 billion in health costs each year through the consumption of low sulphur diesel. The transition is the result of the work of the Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles, based at the UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, and is supported by the government and industry partners. More>>

South Africato roll out low-cost solar heaters
Thousands of people in Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality in South Africa will benefit from a rollout of low-cost solar water heaters. The rollout is part of the country’s National Solar Water Heating programme — initiated in April last year — which aims to set up one million solar-water heaters in homes across South Africa by 2014. The municipality has approved ZAR500 million (around US$70 million) to install low-pressure solar water heaters in households that have benefited from government’s low cost housing programme. More>>

DRC releases ‘red list’ of exploitable trees
The Democratic Republic of Congo, together with the International Union for Conservation of Nature, has officially launched a project to produce a Red List of exploitable trees in the country to serve as a tool for sustainable exploitation of its forest. Forty-seven woody species have been chosen, out of a possible 117, and will be the focus on a detailed study. According to an article in All Voices the launch took place at a four-day workshop during which experts were trained “to participate actively and effectively” in the development of the list. More>>

Internet use on the rise in Zimbabwe
Internet use in Zimbabwe has increased by two per cent in the last three months alone, according to a survey. Around 24 per cent of adults living in urban centres in Zimbabwe are now using the Internet. The Zimbabwe All Media Products and Services Survey (ZAMPS) revealed that most get their access via Internet cafes, while some have access at work or at home. Around two per cent are using mobile broadband. The ZAMPS survey also revealed growth in the use of mobile phones, with 86 per cent of people in urban centres now using them. More>>

Compiled by Ochieng’ Ogodo. Additional reporting by David Njagi and Jean René Bompolonga.

Source – SciDev.Net