Sub-Saharan Africa news in brief


Source: SciDev.Net

Namibia urged to invest more in science and technology

Increasing investment in science and technology could help Namibia reduce poverty, hunger, disease and unemployment, said former president Sam Nujoma last week. Launching the country's National Science, Engineering and Technology Week, Nujoma said: 'If Namibia has to turn around the slow rate of economic development, which is currently estimated at 3–4 per cent per year … then I firmly believe that we should invest heavily in science, technology and innovation.

New climate change-proof crops initiative launched
An initiative to promote research into food crops that can resist Africa's increasingly tough climatic conditions has been launched by the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. The agency is making available US$10 million and has sent out a call for project proposals. The focus is on 'high impact projects supporting small scale farmers in developing countries' by developing 'varieties of the 64 most important food crops and forages'.

Regional centre to boost renewable energy production in West Africa
West African countries have launched a centre in Praia, Cape Verde, to help exploit the region's vast renewable energy resources and address growing energy needs. James Victor Gbeho, president of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), said at last week's opening ceremony that although the region has a hydroelectric potential of 23,000 megawatts, only 16 per cent of this is currently being exploited. Other vast energy resources including solar and wind also remain untapped, he said

Rapid diagnostic tests can aid malaria management
The use of rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) can significantly improve early detection of malaria in low-level healthcare facilities (LLHCFs), according to a study conducted in Uganda. Researchers evaluated more than 166,000 outpatient attendances at 21 LLHCFs and found that using RDTs resulted in a two-fold reduction in antimalarial drug prescription. They said this shows the use of RDTs is feasible in these settings and 'can lead to better targeting of malaria treatment'.

More than half of child fevers not caused by malaria
The director of the WHO's global malaria programme has warned that over-treatment runs the risk of wasting medicines and increases chances of drug resistance. Researchers echoed his sentiments in a study which found that more than half of paediatric fevers in Africa are caused by diseases other than malaria. The researchers said that malaria is still the 'diagnosis of convenience' partly because, often, the only readily available treatments are antimalarials.

Sierra Leone to benefit from improved Internet connections
Internet users in Sierra Leone are to benefit from improved Internet infrastructure with the launch of an Internet exchange point. This will enable 'more efficient, resilient, and less costly connectivity by improving local Internet performance and reducing international bandwidth costs'. The move could also foster the development of local web content.

Uganda develops drought-resistant crops
Uganda's National Crops Resources Research Institute has developed drought-resistant varieties of beans, cassava, maize and upland rice. The maize varieties are also pest-resistant while in storage. Godfrey Asea, team leader of the plant breeding project, said that the varieties wil be sold by seed companies. 'We want to show stakeholders the new drought-resistant high yielding crops, quality seeds and good agronomic and husbandry practices,' he said.

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