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

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

Africa’s ability to handle GM organisms questioned
Namanga Ngongi, president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), has advised African countries to tread carefully with regards to genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Speaking in Dar es Salaam — together with Tesfai Tecle, a special advisor to former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan — Ngongi said that GMOs are difficult to regulate, and that only Egypt and South Africa have the potential to handle their cultivation and consumption.  More>>

Tanzania and Zambia to get solar-powered ICT hubs
Tanzania and Zambia will become the latest Sub-Saharan African countries to benefit from a scheme that works with local entrepreneurs to provide solar-powered information and communications technology (ICT) service centres. NICE International, a social venture based in the Netherlands, started in 2006 with two pilot centres in the Gambia. This was followed by five more centres in 2009 and 2010. “We used the first two years to get the technology right,” said Ties Kroezen, NICE’s managing director. In the next four years, NICE hope to have 50 new centres in the three countries.More>>

South African astronomers to put old satellite dishes to use
Astronomers in South Africa plan to convert old telecommunications dishes into radio telescopes to create a low-cost array for the continent. Justin Jonas — an associate director in the project office for the proposed Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope that South Africa is competing with Australia to host — said that even just a third of the roughly 20 discarded satellite dishes, no longer needed following the installation of fibre-optic cables, could make “a substantial and important array”. “Why wait for SKA?” he told Science. “Why not see what we can do now?” More>>

Landslide fears for Uganda’s Mount Elgon region
A 40-kilometre crack in the slopes of Mount Elgon in Uganda may turn into another disastrous landslide according to the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). About 8,000 people live close to the area. “We have seen cracks [on the land] and at some points they are 1.5 metres deep. Once heavy rains pound these places, then debris flow is inevitable and disaster will definitely occur,” said Mount Elgon conservation officer, Richard Matanda. More>>

Energy from waste for Kenya’s Kibera slums
A communal cooker that turns waste into energy has been developed by community-based organisation Ushrika Wa Safi. “When we started the [organisation], the idea was to start a project that could help keep the environment clean. We therefore began by constructing trenches where people could pour dirty water. Further, we divided Laini Saba [one of 13 villages that form the Kibera slums] into four zones and each zone would meet once a week to collect and burn garbage,” said project manager Bernand Asanya. Residents say that the cooker has changed their lives. More>>

Number of Rwandan mobile phone subscribers rising
The number of mobile phone subscribers in Rwanda has increased by 1.2 million in the last year. In the country, which has the second-lowest mobile phone penetration in the East African Community, “there have been aggressive and innovative promotions — which reduced calling tariffs and attracted more users on different networks,” said Regis Gatarayiha, director-general of the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency. He added that Rwanda is expected to have six million subscribers by 2015. More>>

Kenya watching Japan to glean nuclear lessons
The executive chairman of Kenya’s Nuclear Electricity Development Project Committee, Ochilo Ayacko, has said that the country will be watching the Fukushima nuclear power plant crisis in Japan carefully for useful lessons to guide its own nuclear plans. “We hope to stay on course but the ongoing international debate and discourse will inform our decisions on issues like selection of location as well as safety and security requirements,” he said. Kenya expects to have its first 1,000 megawatt nuclear plant between 2020 and 2022. More>>

African researchers participate in ‘climate protection’ programme
Scientists from Ethiopia, Kenya and Nigeria are carrying out research into the protection of society from the effects of climate change. They were granted a one-year fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Germany, which supports climate protection researchers from non-European and developing countries through its International Climate Protection Fellowship Programme, launched last year. The projects include fast, reliable tests to identify highly toxic chemicals in water, fish and sediments; land utilisation in a dry region on the Ethiopia–Sudan border; and an early-warning system for infectious disease outbreaks. More>>

Compiled by Ochieng’ Ogodo.

Source – SciDev.Net