Ebola Cure Closer than We Imagined
Scientists are a step closer to being able to cure the deadly Ebola haemorrhagic fever after two experimental drugs showed survival rates of as much as 90% in a clinical trial in Congo. An antibody cocktail called REGN-EB3 developed by Regeneron and a monoclonal antibody called mAb114 – will now be offered to all patients infected with the viral disease in an ongoing outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The drugs showed “clearly better” results, according to U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), in a trial of four potential treatments being conducted during the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history, now entering its second year in DRC. The drugs improved survival rates from the disease more than two other treatments being tested – ZMapp, made by Mapp Biopharmaceutical, and Remdesivir, made by Gilead Sciences – and those products will be now dropped, said Anthony Fauci, one of the researchers co-leading the trial.SOURCE: REUTERS AFRICA
Africa’s Unbanked Find Another Solution to Tap into Formal Economy
Mobile money is the fastest-growing source of income for wireless-network operators like MTN Group Ltd. and Vodafone Group Plc’s Safaricom unit, outpacing data since many Africans don’t have the latest smartphones. The service has become an indispensable part of how Africa’s 1.2 billion people live, from buying funeral cover to borrowing money. The number of registered users in Ghana soared 11-fold between 2013 and 2017, International Monetary Fund data shows. Across the continent in Kenya, where it was pioneered, the value of such transactions amounts to almost half of gross domestic product, according to the World Bank. Sub-Saharan Africa has more mobile-money accounts than anywhere else in the world with about 396 million registered users at the end of 2018, a 14% increase from a year earlier, according to the GSM Association. As it catches on around the world, South Asia saw 29% growth in 2018, and it was 38% for East Asia and the Pacific.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA
Leading the Revolution for Cleaner Cooking Methods in African Cities
The widespread use of charcoal for cooking in African cities can cause devastating damage to forests up to 300 kilometers away, scientist Sebastia n Rodriguez-Sanchez found while working on energy and agriculture issues in West Africa. So in 2015, he co-founded a business to try to fix the problem by weaning people off charcoal — made by smoldering wood — and onto bottled gas. So far, efforts to introduce cleaner stoves that burn less fuel have been led mainly by aid agencies working in rural parts of Africa and Asia — and have had limited success. For families in the Tanzanian city of Dar es Salaam, where Rodriguez-Sanchez started his business, KopaGas, the $150 cost of a gas stove and canister equals half the average monthly wage, making it hard to afford. As a result, four out of five residents in a city generating 40% of the East African nation’s GDP still depend on a fuel that damages both forests and their health to make daily meals. KopaGas hopes to spur uptake of gas cooking using a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) system it developed. For an upfront fee of 15,000 Tanzanian shillings ($6.50), a household gets a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cooking kit that includes a canister fitted with a smart meter. The gas supply is unlocked by mobile phone payments and the meter monitors consumption, feeding back data via the Internet of Things. KopaGas has signed up 3,500 households for its PAYG service, and supplies another 20,000 with traditional gas bottles. Its services reach about 117,000 people in total, a number it aims to boost to 1 million in Tanzania by the end of 2021.SOURCE: VOA
South Africa’s First Restaurant to Focus Exclusively on Insects
A South Africa-based company, Gourmet Grubb, produces ice cream made from an insect-based dairy alternative they’ve named EntoMilk. It’s made from Hermetia illucens, the black soldier fly. And since June, they’ve been operating a pop-up food concept in Cape Town called The Insect Experience, where dishes featuring insects are plated with the same care and precision as any gourmet delicacy. The pop-up was originally slated to close by the end of August, but Bessa and her partners now hope to keep it open through the middle of 2020, possibly springing up every few months in new locations. Most of the insects used at The Insect Experience come from South African farms, Bessa said. The only exception are the mopane worms, a southern African delicacy that are sourced from neighboring Zimbabwe. There are more than 1,900 known edible insect species consumed around the world, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Edible insects are incredibly healthy, according to Bessa. They’re high in protein that has the right amino acid profile for human consumption. They’re also high in iron and zinc, high in fiber, and they have a healthy fat profile.
Did Zimbabwe Get a Clean Break from Mugabe’s Autocratic Rule and Economic Mismanagement?
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s opponents now fear he is more dangerous than his predecessor. The number of government critics charged with “subverting a constitutional government,” a form of treason, during Mr. Mnangagwa’s 21 months at the helm already outstrips the figure during Mr. Mugabe’s 37 years in office, according to a coalition of 22 Zimbabwean rights watchdogs. Mr. Mnangagwa has been traveling extensively throughout Africa, promoting and developing plans for economic reform. He wants to be seen as a modernizer, and he portrays Zimbabwe as once again “open for business.” He opened a dry port for Zimbabwean trade in Namibia. He has reduced the paperwork needed to open companies, and he loudly seeks foreign investment in the mining, tourism, agricultural and textile industries. But Zimbabwe is suffering from vast shortages of fuel, bank notes, water and electricity. Drivers typically wait three hours for gasoline, and civil servants line up all morning to receive part of their salaries in cash. Half of the capital Harare receives running water only once a week, and electricity blackouts last up to 18 hours a day in many areas. An inflation rate of more than 175 percent has put some food and medicine beyond the reach of middle-class Zimbabweans. Shoppers emerging from a Harare supermarket complained of a sevenfold rise in the price of bread since this time last year.
SOURCE: THE NEW YORK TIMES
Mozambique MPs Criminalise Digital Snooping
Anyone who now gains access to phones, computers or other gadgets belonging to someone else without permission will face up to two years in prison. For those who illegally produce, sell or distribute “non-public information” obtained from such devices without permission, the penalty will be a jail term of up to five years. The law now also stipulates that offenders will in addition be fined at least the equivalent of one year’s minimum salary of about $816. The revision aims to adapt criminal law to the realities of modern communication technologies to give individuals and businesses protection. Less of than half of Mozambique’s 31 million inhabitants have mobile phones.
SOURCE: CHANNEL AFRICA
Multinationals Fined for Bribing African Officials
Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz and two associates are to stand trial for allegedly bribing Guinean officials to win mining licences. The trio allegedly paid $10m to one of the wives of former Guinean President Lansana Conte. Mr Steinmetz and his mining company Beny Steinmetz Group Resources (BSGR) have previously denied any wrongdoing. The prosecution is seeking prison terms of two to 10 years. The prosecutors, who opened an investigation into the alleged bribery six years ago, allege that Mr Steinmetz obtained the mining rights in the Simandou region of south-eastern Guinea just before Conte died in 2008. They charge that the money was paid to a wife of the country’s former president partially through Swiss bank accounts. In February this year, Guinean authorities dropped corruption charges against Mr Steinmetz and BSGR in exchange for relinquishing rights to the Simandou mine.
The New Crop Keeping Kenyan Farmers Afloat
As drought and erratic weather wreak havoc across rural Kenya, a growing number of farmers are abandoning traditional crops such as maize and rice for the more lucrative muguka, a potent legal stimulant that relieves fatigue. A variety of khat, which produces a mild high when chewed, muguka is fast-growing, making it less vulnerable to large swings in weather conditions, and uses about half as much water as maize. But it is bad news for food supplies, said agriculture experts and local politicians, who warned of a potential food crop shortage as farmers clear their fields of staples to make way for muguka. There is no official record of how many farmers have switched from growing food crops to muguka, said Mwangi. Nor is there data on how much land is being used for muguka, according to Kenya’s Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA). But Francis Kimori, chair of the Mbeere Muguka Farmers Sacco, a savings and credit co-operative, estimated that four out of every five households around the Mount Kenya region, including in Embu County, are farming the stimulant in some quantity.SOURCE: BUSINESS DAY LIVE
Pulling South Africa into the Electric Car Era
Nissan Motor Co., BMW AG and Volkswagen AG are among carmakers in talks to bring the electric-car revolution to South Africa, as the nation’s auto-factory floors risk being left behind in the global switch to greener vehicles. The industry is preparing a unified stance on electrification to present to the government by the end of the year, according to Mike Mabasa, chief executive officer of the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa. Among the goals is persuading lawmakers to reduce or drop a 23% import tariff on electric vehicles to help ramp up nascent domestic sales, he said. Another is to roll out a charging infrastructure in a country where the state-owned power monopoly is in deep financial crisis. To date, there are no firm plans for electric-car or hybrid production in South Africa, but the government and industry agreed in 2018 to extend a manufacturing incentive program, creating jobs and enabling models like the BMW X3 sport utility vehicle and Nissan’s Novara pickup to be produced locally.
SOURCE: BLOOMBERG AFRICA
[LISTEN] How Our African Ancestors Made Sound In The Stone Age
The Middle and Later Stone Age, which lasted from about 300 000 to 300 years ago in South Africa, was an important time for the African continent. During this period humans developed many different strategies to produce a variety of stone tools. They used fire as an engineering tool and to cook. As expert hunter gatherers, they successfully inhabited many parts of Africa. But one thing that’s been missing from our understanding of this epoch is sound, noise or music. There’s been very little research on the role of sound production during the Stone Age. That’s very surprising since we know that the latter part of this period was an important one for the development of complex cognition, symbolic expression and social dynamics among human ancestors. So it stands to reason that groups which were communicating in complex ways might also explore sound for expression. One reason to account for this lack of research may be that sound-producing instruments are usually made of organic materials which typically don’t survive well, archaeologically.