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Tailoring Medication for Africans

Medication for Africans

According to Abasi Ene-Obong, the founder and CEO of biotech start-up 54gene, black Africans and people of black ancestry are more genetically diverse than all of the other populations in the world combined, making their genetic information “a huge resource to be tapped”. He has set up a genetic research laboratory in Nigeria’s largest city of Lagos, from where his team plans to analyse some 40,000 DNA data samples by the end of 2019, with a view to reaching 100,000 over the next 12 months. Launched in January, 54gene’s growth has been frenetic. In July, the start-up received seed funding worth $4.5m from investors. The bulk of the money is being used to expand the lab in Lagos, hire new staff members, and to build an off-grid power supply because of Nigeria’s notorious power outages.His biotech firm intends to research diseases like sickle cell, which mainly affect black Africans. The biotech firm – named after the 54 internationally recognised countries in Africa – also plans to expand operations on the continent through partnerships with pharmaceuticals and research programmes on the continent.


Is a Synthetic Horn the Remedy Against Rhino Poaching?

 Rhino Poaching

Scientists have developed a fake rhino horn using horsehair, in a bid to create “credible fakes” to flood the market and reduce demand for the material. Researchers from the University of Oxford created the synthetic horn by bundling horse hairs, gluing them together with a matrix of regenerated silk to mimic the collagenous properties of authentic rhino horn. Researchers said analytical studies showed the fake horsehair horn demonstrated similar composition and properties to natural horn, which grows from a tightly packed tuft of hair on the animal’s nose. Rhinos are often poached for their horn, which buyers believe can cure health problems from hangovers to cancer. Persistent poaching and habitat loss has led to a decline in the world’s rhino population — according to conservation organization Save the Rhino, 892 of the animals were killed in Africa in 2018.


Celebrating Africa’s New Crop of Entrepreneurs

Africa's New Entrepreneurs

The Anzisha Prize, in partnership with the African Leadership Academy (ALA) and Mastercard Foundation, has awarded $25 000 to 21-year-old Yannick Kimanuka from the Democratic Republic of Congo for being crowned the winner of the 2019 Anzisha Prize. The KIM’s School Complex, founded by Yannick in 2018, is a nursery and primary school which aims to improve how children perform academically in her community. This year the Anzisha Prize Forum was a half-day curated experience that included workshops on the Anzisha Scenario which gave stakeholders an opportunity to rethink their approach to youth entrepreneurship. On the journey to crowning the winners, the 20 finalists were put through their paces participating in an 11-day boot camp at the ALA campus where they were coached by industry experts on how to run successful businesses. 


Shutting Down Nigeria’s Torture Chambers

Nigeria's Torture Chambers

Nigeria has been urged to end all forms of abuse in state-run mental health institutions as well as religious healing centres. In a report published on Monday Human Rights Watch (HRW) said thousands of Nigerians with mental health conditions face prolonged detention, chaining, physical and sexual violence or forced treatment, including electroshock therapy. HRW’s report shows that interventions have fallen short of addressing a problem that is widespread across Nigeria. Stigma and misconceptions, including beliefs that mental health conditions are caused by evil spirits or demons, mean that patients are often detained, abused and forced to “sleep, eat and defecate within the same confined space”, often in front of others, HRW said.The campaigning group said mistreatment is “rife” in both Christian and Islamic faith healing centres and state hospitals and rehabilitation centres. This is despite the recent closure of several facilities and a condemnation of abusive facilities from President Muhammadu Buhari’s office. Some Nigerians have taken matters in their own hands, setting up groups to raise awareness and tackle stigma such as Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative, a user-led informal support network with more than 1,500 volunteers.


Huge Export, Trade Opportunities For Africa

Trade Opportunities For Africa

Africa can capitalise on international trade wars by stepping up its export capabilities, says NWU trade expert. African countries have a lot to gain from a US-China trade war, with opportunities for the continent to step up its services and product export capabilities. This is according to Francois Fouche, advisor at Trade Research Advisory, a spin-out company of the North-West University, who was addressing dignitaries including ambassadors and trade mission officials at the launch of the 2020 edition of Africa Trade Week in Johannesburg recently. “South Africa and the SADC region need to export,” Fouche said. “In South Africa alone, while in Q219 there was reasonable quarter on quarter growth, South Africa has not had a very impressive growth run prior to that.  We’re a very small and open economy, and we must participate more in the global market.”


South Africa Tops the List of Emission Offenders

Emission Offenders Africa

A report, Brown to Green: G20 Transition to a Net-zero Emissions Economy, published on Monday by a global nongovernmental organisation coalition, Climate Transparency, says South Africa’s per capita greenhouse gas emissions are above the G20 average and that we are the most emissions-intensive of all G20 countries. The report says to meet commitments South Africa has made to meeting emissions targets, the country needs to stop building new coal plants, including finishing the two units at Kusile, establish timelines to phase out existing coal-fired power stations and accelerate the decommissioning of plants too costly to retrofit to meet air-quality standards. South Africa, together with two other outliers, Turkey and Indonesia, “urgently need to develop coal phase-out plans and stop building more coal power plants”, Climate Transparency says, noting that “no new renewable energy capacity has been procured since 2015, despite the country facing acute power shortages at the moment”.


No Peace in Sight for Juba


South Sudan’s rival leaders have once again missed a deadline to form a transitional unity government, raising new concerns for a fragile peace process in a country devastated by years of ruinous civil war. President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar had agreed in September to establish a power-sharing government by Tuesday. But in a meeting last week, mediated by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Sudan’s interim leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Kiir and Machar agreed to push back by 100 days the formation of the new administration. The talks in Entebbe, Uganda, noted that “critical tasks” were still not completed, including issues related to security arrangements, governance and the integration of fighting forces.


Hwange’s Memory to be Removed Due to Drought

Hwange's Memory

Zimbabwe’s parks agency says more than 200 elephants have died amid a severe drought, and a mass relocation of animals is planned to ease congestion. He says animals including giraffe, buffalo and impala are also dying and the situation can improve only after rains return. Many animals are straying from Zimbabwe’s parks into nearby communities in search of food and water. The parks agency has said 33 people have died from conflict with animals this year alone. The agency says it plans to move 600 elephants, two prides of lions and other animals from the Save Valley Conservancy in the southeast to less congested parks.


Lungu’s Gift to Zambia

 Edgar Lungu

President Edgar Lungu has pardoned three high-profile prisoners on the occasion of his 63rd birthday. A statement from the presidency confirmed the release of five prisoners from various correctional facilities. Amongst them are a former minister, a journalists and an ex-air force commander. The release of Sinjela, proprietor of Rainbow Newspaper, was expected after the president hinted about it last week.


The Women Explorers Who Sailed the Nile

Women Travelers on the Nile

Reading “Women Travelers on the Nile,” a 2016 anthology edited by Deborah Manley, one will find kindred spirits in the women who chronicled their expeditions to Egypt in the 19th century. The book is collections of letters and memoirs written by intrepid female journalists, intellectuals and novelists, all British or European. Relentlessly entertaining, the women’s stories reflected the Egyptomania that flourished after Napoleon invaded North Africa in 1798. The country had become a focal point for artists, architects and newly minted photographers — and a fresh challenge for affluent adventurers.


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