Sub-Saharan Africa news in brief: 16–29 December 2010


Source: SciDev.Net

Below is a roundup of news from or about Sub-Saharan Africa for the period 16–29 December 2010

Africa–EU science dialogue approved
Heads of state from the European Union (EU) and Africa have lent their support to an inter-continental ministerial dialogue on science. The endorsement was made at the Africa–EU summit in Tripoli, Libya, last month (29–30 November), and the European Parliament welcomed the dialogue in a resolution on 15 December. The dialogue will aim to 'strengthen the science and technology cooperation framework and to ensure the necessary guidance in the pursuit of agreed objectives', according to a summit statement seen by SciDev.Net last week.

Swedish-backed project to help research in Mozambique
Mozambique and Sweden have launched a US$7 million project to boost Mozambique's national research system. The five-year project will focus on scientific research and innovation, development of human resources, and popularisation of science and technology. 'Through this programme, we hope to see more dynamic partnerships among the research institutions, and between them and the productive sector, resulting in the generation of products and solutions that can have a positive impact on people's lives,' said Venancio Massingue, Mozambique's minister of science and technology.

Africa's future lies in green economic development
Africa needs a major shift in economic development policies, to embrace decentralised green development, according to experts. A low-carbon economy should be viewed as something for the poorest because it is more resource-efficient, it creates employment opportunities and helps achieve development at a lower cost, said Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme. 'We have to grow the economies of Africa but only through green sustainable development, delinked from increasing resource use,' he said.

African Research Grants programme issues first call for proposals
The African Union (AU) Research Grants programme, a project under the Africa–EU partnership has announced its first call for proposals. The AU is seeking proposals that focus on post-harvest and agriculture, renewable and sustainable energy, and water and sanitation in Africa. It is expected that the move will foster the implementation of Africa's Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action, and ensure more involvement from African scientists in solving the continent's problems.

Tanzania 'needs national policy on biofuels'
A lack of a national policy on development of biofuels development is a major stumbling block to exploiting the sector's potential in Tanzania, and has resulted in conflict between investors and local communities, according to civil society. 'Investors ... began cultivation of biofuel plants even before a policy was in place. Challenges that arose ... could not be properly addressed because there were no legal and regulatory guidelines for the sector,' said Yefred Myenzi, director of non-governmental organisation HakiArdhi at a bioenergy meeting in Dar es Salaam this month (16 December). But Esther Mfugale, from the ministry of Energy and Minerals, said: 'The guidelines are already in place and we are now working to create the overall policy to guide the sector.'

Traditional vegetables could help address food insecurity
Traditional vegetable could play a key role in Africa's quest for food security, according to Kenyan researchers. Mary Abukutsa Onyango, a lecturer at Jomo Kenyatta University, said extensive research into traditional vegetables such as African eggplant, cowpea and nightshades has shown that they are rich with nutrients and easy to grow. 'Exotic vegetables have a market, but largely among the rich. They are expensive and therefore marginalise Kenyans who live below the poverty line,' said Nduati Kigo, an agricultural officer in central Kenya.

Ghana gets Google Trader
Google launched a 'free online classifieds service' in Ghana this month that will enable citizens to buy and sell products and services, and look for jobs. An SMS version of the product, which is still in the beta phase, was introduced in Uganda in last year to help farmers. However, there are fears that Trader could take a large chunk of the Ghanaian media's revenue. '[Google] … could jeopardise the consolidation of independent media in these countries,' said afrol News editor Rainer Chr Hennig.

Mobile market set to expand in Africa
The value of mobile phone services in Africa is expected to expand hugely in the next five years, according to a study by research firm Informa Telecoms & Media. It is estimated that the continent will achieve an annual growth rate of 20 per cent with revenue of more than US$11.5 billion generated by 2014. The bulk of this growth will be from rural customers, who are becoming a larger component of operators' subscriber bases.

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