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Sub-Saharan Africa news in brief: 13–26 January 2011

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Source: SciDev.Net

Below is a round up of news from or about Sub-Saharan Africa for the period 13–26 January 2011

Malaria vaccine candidate shows promise
The GlaxoSmithKline malaria vaccine, known as 'RTS,S', provides long-lasting protection for children, according to a study. Data from mid-stage trials, published earlier this month, show that the vaccine offered 46 per cent protection for up to 15 months. Late-stage trials on 16,000 children in seven African countries are in progress and if they show it to be efficacious, the vaccine could be rolled out as early as 2015.

Communicating research key to right policies and development
At a recent communication summit in Abuja, Ibrahim Shehu Shema, governor of Katsina State said 'although there is a serious shortage of researchers and scientists in Africa, the greatest problem is the unwillingness of researchers to share their research results with relevant publics beyond their peers'. Researchers' audiences are people who can benefit from the new research results, including policy-makers, politicians, the media and ordinary people, he said. Charles Okigbo, a communications consultant urged governments to show interest in research and development and work with universities to ensure that research results are adequately communicated.

Fruit and nut farmers to use ants to control pests
African fruit and nut growers will be trained on how to use weaver ants to control pests that attack and destroy their crops. The control is an improved version of a method used by Chinese farmers for centuries, and only needs simple, inexpensive tools such as ropes and cutters. Farmers will be trained by scientists from Benin, Denmark and Tanzania. 'Our partners in both countries have done work with weaver ant bio-control but have not yet tried to breed live colonies for farmers. Our expertise on this subject will be transferred to Africa during the project,' said Joachim Offenberg, a researcher at Aarhus University, Denmark.

South Africa and France collaborate on joint marine lab initiative
Scientists from South Africa and France have launched an international laboratory that will develop models to assess the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems. 'One of the keys is to be able to forecast — to set up scenarios for the rest of the current century,' said Francis Marsac, co-director of the project. The International Centre for Education, Marine and Atmospheric Science over Africa, a four-year project, will be funded by the French Research Institute for Development with an annual budget of €50,000 (US$68,000) — of which US$41,000 is for post-graduate students — and US$1.6 million for equipment and salaries.

University of Helsinki establishes research station in Kenya
The University of Helsinki, in Finland, has opened a research station in Taita Taveta county, Kenya, and will collaborate with the University of Nairobi on research there. The Taita research station will focus on multidisciplinary environmental research, and provide lodgings and resources for researchers. Geographers from the University of Helsinki have been conducting research in the area for years, studying changes in the landscape and livelihoods of the local communities.

Mauritius to boost renewable energy production
The Hindu Girls College in southern Mauritius is producing clean energy from a three kilowatt roof solar system, following last month's call by the government to produce electricity from renewable sources. 'We have got so much sunshine here,' said Andrea Gungadin, rector of the college. 'Why allow it to go waste when we can use it to produce electricity at a time when fossil fuel is becoming scarcer and more expensive?' Energy and public utilities minister, Rashid Beebeejaun, said the new initiative aims to transform the island into a sustainable nation.

Africa catching up in building sound manufacturing base
A UN study has revealed that Africa's rapid acquisition of industrial technologies is putting it on a par with other developing nations with regards to building a sound manufacturing base. 'The findings reveal an impressive turnaround from the slow growth in Africa's share of the number of patents, peer-reviewed scientific publications and technology exports and imports which grew very slowly in the 1980s to 1990s,' said Abdoulie Janneh, executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, which produced the study.

Kenya reaches out to its innovators
In a bid to boost innovation in the country, Kenya's National Council for Science and Technology (NCST) has invited potential innovators to submit proposals for funding. Successful proposals will receive one million Kenyan shillings (US$12,000). 'This call is intended to support innovators develop their prototypes. NCST may assist in linking the successfully developed prototypes with venture capitals for commercialisation,' said NCST chief executive Shaukat Abdulrazak, in an advertisement that appeared in local dailies recently.

Solar-powered fences could save farms from destructive elephants
Elephants wandering out of forests into Kenya farms, causing massive crop destruction in the process, could be stopped in their tracks by solar-powered electric fences. A 20-kilometre stretch of fencing is being erected in Kithigina village, which could save the community thousands of shillings (around US$250) in losses each month. 'A stray elephant can, in just one night, clear the entire crop on a one-acre piece of land,' said Julia Nkirote, a mother of four. 'We usually expect them at least twice a week. I hope the solar fence is the solution we have been waiting for.' Renewable energy technologies are becoming increasingly popular methods for keeping wildlife off farms.

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