Sub-Saharan Africa tech news in brief: 24 February–9 March 2011

Below is a round up of tech news from or about Sub-Saharan Africa for the period 24 February–9 March 2011

African Academy of Sciences appoints new president
The African Academy of Sciences has selected Ahmadou Lamine Ndiaye from Senegal as its new president. Ndiaye — former vice-president of the National Academy of Science and Technology of Senegal and special advisor to the country’s president — succeeds Mohamed H. A. Hassan, who was president for the past ten years. The academy, established in 1985 and headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, is a non-political and non-profit initiative that aims to “champion science-based development in Africa”. More>>

Tanzania criticised for strict GM law
The Tanzanian country coordinator of the Water Efficient Maize for Africa project has criticised the government for delaying the confined field trials for genetically modified (GM) maize. Alois Kullaya said that Tanzania is lagging compared with other East African countries such as Kenya and Uganda. “We have had successful mock trials since 2009, but we failed to move to the next step last August because the government did not grant us a permit,” Kullaya recently told BusinessWeek. He also called for less restrictive regulations.More>>

Kenya nearly ready to start planting biotech crops
The Kenyan government has announced that it will publish biotechnology guidelines in two months, bringing the country a step closer to planting genetically modified (GM) crops. Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki signed a Biosafety Act in 2009, following years of delays, but the guidelines are essential for facilitating implementation. Roy Mugiira, chief executive of the National Biosafety Authority, said that the Kenyan Agricultural Research Institute would soon register a patent for GM technology. More>>

Botswana, Namibia to enjoy high-speed Internet
Residents of Botswana and Namibia will soon start enjoying direct Internet connectivity with West Africa, the United Kingdom and the rest of the world, through the West Africa Cable System (WACS), a 14,000 km subsea cable. The landing point of the cable in Swakopmund, Namibia, was financed by the governments of the two countries and Telecom Namibia. Residents can expect to benefit from commercial, high-bandwidth services “before the second quarter of this year”. More>>

Africa still far from developing robust technology-based businesses
The chief executive officer of Kenya’s Symbiotic Media Consortium, Mbugua Njihia, wrote in that building “indigenous tech-based service” companies in Africa will take time to gain ground. “Business models for technology companies, more so those offering services are not as straightforward as one would think … the reason for not seeing big ‘indigenous tech-based service’ companies in Africa, is that we are yet to nail the philosophy and ethos of our businesses.” Njihia said that countries must spend more time figuring out the services they need and developing appropriate strategies to bring them about. More>>

Conduct more scientific research, Angola urged
The Angolan government has been urged to boost its support for scientific research. University lecturer and law specialist Lazarino Poulson said that the country must invest in researchers, laboratory equipment, scientific research centres and other facilities. More>>

Social media takes major leap in Africa
The majority of the time spent online in Africa is spent on social media sites, mainly accessed via mobile phones. Facebook users grew from 10 million in 2009 to more than 17 million; Facebook is now the most visited website in most of Africa. Social media entrepreneur Erik Hersman said that “with mobile phone penetration already high across the continent, and as we get to critical mass with Internet usage in some of Africa’s leading countries (Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Egypt) … a seismic shift will happen with services, products and information”. More>>

Cow dung helps villagers cut electricity costs
Using cheap and affordable technology, a community project turning cow dung into biogas is helping villagers near Giyani in South Africa reduce the cost of electricity. In the project, Mpfuneko (Solution), villagers collect dung from local cattle owners and process them into biogas sold to local people at very low cost. They have also installed a biogas digester, which converts manure into energy which is supplied to households for, among other purposes, cooking. “Cattle owners benefit by contributing cow dung in return for a 25 per cent share in the project. The project also provides employment and skills that locals need to empower themselves,” said founding project manager Jotte van Ierland. More>>

Compiled by Ochieng’ Ogodo.

Source – SciDev.Net – 9 Mar 2011