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Meet the Winner of the 2019 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation 

Neo Hutiri

An invention by a South African engineer that dispenses pills has won a major African engineering prize. Neo Hutiri invented the Pelebox, a locker patients can unlock with a one-time pin sent to their phone. These lockers cut queues down “from three-and-a-half hours to under 36 seconds”, he told BBC Focus on Africa. South Africa runs the world’s largest HIV/Aids treatment programme which has led to high numbers of patients with repeat prescriptions. Mr Hutiri won the $32,000 2019 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation from the Royal Academy of Engineering. He told the BBC that he came up with the idea after he was diagnosed with TB in 2014 and he went to his clinic to collect medicine. Long queues at pharmacies can be caused by staff shortages and high volumes of patients with chronic illnesses – such as HIV and Aids. Currently six smart locker units are in operation in South Africa and the company is building eight more. He says he will use prize money to help build an assembly section for manufacturing and improve the technology so they can scale up their business better.


Out in the Cold

African Union

The African Union (AU) has suspended Sudan’s membership days after the military launched a brutal crackdown on protesters that killed dozens of people. The AU’s Peace and Security Department said in a post on Twitter on Thursday that Sudan’s participation in all AU activities would be suspended with immediate effect – “until the effective establishment of a civilian-led transitional authority,” which it described as the only way to “exit from the current crisis”. The announcement followed an emergency meeting by the AU in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, after the violent dispersal of a protest camp in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, began on Monday. At least 108 people have been killed and more than 500 wounded, according to the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD), while a health ministry official was quoted as saying the death toll stood at 61.


Kenyan Garbage Hero Talks Empowerment and Caring for the Environment

Mathare Environmental Conservation Youth Group

Cleaning the streets of garbage while creating jobs for unemployed youth. This is what a youth group is doing in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. According to the United Nations, uncollected garbage is among the biggest problems in cities, and because of a growing population worldwide the problem seems to grow bigger. But there are solutions as the youth group in Nairobi is showing. Isaac Muasa, fondly known as Kaka is the founder and chair of the Mathare Environmental Conservation Youth Group (MECYG). It began life as a door-to-door rubbish collection and disposal enterprise in 1997 after Kaka and members of his football team decided to tackle the mounting heaps of rubbish in their community. By making their collection services affordable, the group ensured that the initiative took off and became a regular source of income for many jobless youth. The youth decided to clear the largest dumpsite in Mlango Kubwa and convert it into their own exclusive space. Kaka has been selected as one of the five winners of the 2018 UN-Habitat Scroll of Honour in recognition of his work in improving the lives of those in urban areas particularly in the area of solid waste management.


New Superfood Alert 


With more than 12.2 million heads of camel, East Africa is home to some of the world’s largest camel populations. Rich in iron, vitamin B and C, and low in fat, the frothy milk produced by the hunched mammal is valued in the region and across the world for its medicinal value—particularly against diabetes and allergies—and is even used as an aphrodisiac. It’s also prized as a source of nutrition especially in hot and arid zones where climate change is exacerbating drought conditions and decimating food chains. As such, camel dairy products ranging from baby milk to chocolate bars, pizzas to frappuccinos have been launched all across the world. In Africa, enterprises like Mauritania’s Tiviski have been successful in disrupting the milk industry, ensuring they buy from local camel herders instead of relying on milk imports. In Chad, milk bars are helping popularize the consumption of the slightly salty milk, while Egypt’s Tayyiba Farms offers a range of products including camel white cheese, kefir, and yogurt. Yet across East Africa, the camel dairy business remains rudimentary with much of it being sold and consumed in domestic markets or guzzled by young camels themselves. This underutilization of the creamy liquid, some say, undermines its potential to grow into a multi-billion-dollar business that could change the lives of herders and milk traders alike. Given its benefits for health and well-being, camel milk could grow to become the next global superfood attracting health-conscious consumers. 


Moving Africa Away from Cash Transactions

digital payment systems

Across Africa, there has historically been a heavy reliance on cash, with around 95 percent of retail transactions taking place in cash. Global and local organisations are investing in innovative digital payment systems and new disruptive payments tools to displace cash, while delivering new levels of inclusion to the benefit of consumers, businesses and governments. One of the leading technology companies in this realm is Mastercard. From a consumer perspective, cash is inconvenient, dangerous to carry and expensive. This remains true across several other African countries where people often have to trade off the demands of an hourly job with the need to travel long distances to access cash or stand in line to pay a bill. Many people also face the danger of being robbed when they come home with their wages.​ Cash also has several negative implications for merchants and small businesses. Not only does it cost these businesses to access, secure, transport and store cash, but it can also hamper business growth if they do not accept electronic payments. For example, entrepreneurs cannot access the credit or loans they need to grow their businesses without a financial record or credit history. They can also lose out on revenue when their customers don’t have enough cash to pay for goods.


Why this Tour Group Won’t Receive a Warm Welcome

LGBT tour operator

An LGBT tour operator has received death threats and hate messages on social media after launching a holiday to Ethiopia. Chicago-based Toto Tours’ 16-day trip to Ethiopia is due to take place at the end of October and includes religious sites such as the Debre Berhan Selassie in Gondar and the ancient cave monasteries in the mountains of Lalibela. But religious groups in the country are urging the Ethiopian government to ban the company from visiting religious sites, warning that gay travellers could face violence. Ethiopia has strict anti-gay laws, with homosexual acts punishable by up to 15 years in prison. According to Article 629 of the Ethiopian Criminal Code, this applies to both nationals and foreigners. Toto Tours, which has been organising trips around the world for LGBT travellers and their friends and families since 1990, describes itself as “dedicated to creating exciting travel opportunities that enable our community to explore the wonders of the world in comfort and safety while having the time of our lives”. It has also run tours to Uganda and Tanzania, both of which currently criminalise homosexual acts.


Africa’s ‘Innovative Spirit’ Attracts Significant Investments this Year

Africa Development Centre

The continent’s burgeoning reputation as a source of programming talent got a major boost last month when Microsoft launched its Africa Development Centre (ADC) — a $100m investment over the next five years. With offices in Kenya and Nigeria, Microsoft hopes to train 100 full-time engineers by the end of this year and a further 500 engineers by the end of 2023. The multinational believes in Africa’s “innovative spirit”, especially in fintech, agritech and off-grid energy. Microsoft’s investment comes after programming company Andela announced earlier this year it had secured an additional $100m in investment, including from Facebook’s first couple, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. This brings its total venture funding to $180m. Microsoft is aware that locally relevant apps and services are the correct way in which to approach markets in different parts of the world. “You can’t just build it and hope they will come, as they say in [the movie] Field of Dreams,” says Fortin. “All of these have to be relevant for the local market and globally. We come here expecting to learn.”


Here’s How Ghana could End Child Labor on Cocoa Farms

Cocoa Farms

Paying just 3% more at the farm gate could stop children in Ghana doing the most hazardous tasks, like using machetes, or working more than 42 hours a week, researchers said, as the illegal practice is driven by poverty and rarely prosecuted. Ghana is the world’s second largest cocoa grower, More than 700,000 children help produce the crop. “We figured there has to be some kind of incentive, on top of the laws, to get the farmers to stop using child labor,” said Jeff Luckstead, an agricultural economist at the University of Arkansas, co-author of the study in the journal PLoS ONE. Most cocoa farming families live below the World Bank’s poverty line of $2 a day, according to the charity International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), fuelling child labor. Big chocolate makers have been under pressure to clean up their supply chains since reports of child labor on West African cocoa farms emerged in the 1990s, with major names like Mars and Hershey promising to only buy ethical cocoa by 2020.


South Africa’s President Hold Talks with Executives of Key State Companies

President Cyril Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa met with former CEO’s from power utility Eskom and South African Airways (SAA), to discuss challenges they face. The meeting follows resignations of Eskom and SAA chief executives, moves that investors said could slow the pace of turnaround plans seen as critical to shoring up confidence in Africa’s most industrialised economy. The presidency said Ramaphosa requested the meeting with more than 20 chief executives of key state-owned companies to hear their views on challenges, as well as opportunities. “This engagement has raised several critical areas that limit the ability of (state-owned companies) to drive growth and development. These range from inadequate capitalisation and poor governance to outdated legislation and political interference,” Ramaphosa said in a statement.


CAF Cancels Esperance Win

Esperance Tunis

Esperance Tunis have lodged an appeal against CAF’s Wednesday decision to re-stage the second leg of the African Champions League final, which was last week abandoned after Wydad Casablanca left the pitch following a disputed decision. Wydad’s Walid El Karti’s 60th minute equaliser was ruled out by the referee for offside. The Moroccans requested verification by the VAR but Gambian referee Bakari Gassama declined. Furious, they walked off the pitch.The match had thereafter been awarded to Esperance, who were consequently crowned African champions. The club has since refused to honour CFA’s call to return the trophy and medals. “The club’s management will hold an urgent meeting to appeal against Caf’s decision with the relevant international bodies and will take all legal measures to preserve its rights,” Esperance said in a short statement. The team is expected to return all medals and the trophy ahead of the rescheduled game which will be played after the 2019 AFCON set to take place in Egypt. The final final will be played at a yet to be named neutral ground.


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