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Web TV aims to boost youth interest in African farming

Ouagadougou – With the logo of his internet TV station on his black T-shirt, Inoussa Maiga energetically plucks corn stalks in northern Burkina Faso for a programme on farming in Africa.

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Maiga, 30, launched Agribusiness TV in May in the Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou, determined to change poor opinions about agricultural work held by African youth and to help develop the continent.

“All those who went to school up to a certain level consider going back to the land as a failure, as something demeaning. Yet and we see it every day in our broadcasts, there are many opportunities for young people,” he says.

In Bagre, 245 kilometres (150 miles) north of the city, Maiga has found one of the unusual topics he likes to promote: a teacher who gives classes in maths while raising pigs and growing maize, rice and groundnuts.

Other characteristic subjects are a woman in Benin with a degree in banking and finance who works in a “man’s universe of crop production” and an inventor of helpful machines for agricultural cooperatives in Togo.

The TV channel, available on the web and mobile phones, has steadily garnered a network of correspondents in Benin, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mali and Togo, with Mauritius next on the agenda.

‘Maximum age of 40

The editorial stance of Agribusiness TV has clear rules.

Features focus on people of “a maximum age of 40” who have a “pretty interesting” background in farming, stock-breeding and other “different links in the food chain”, Maiga explains.

Programmes can cover “food processing, green jobs, everything related to the environment and the business of sustainable agriculture”.

“We want people whose careers can inspire other people,” says the broadcaster, who set up the enterprise with his wife Nawsheen Hosenally.

Himself the son of a peasant farmer, Inoussa studied at the University of Ouagadougou, where he specialised in communications for development before founding Agribusiness TV.

He seeks “above all to showcase young Africans who are courageously committed to agriculture, who invest in the area, and possibly to bring a different outlook among young Africans to this sector,” he says, calling it “the motor for the development of African economies”.

‘Massive youth unemployment’

“When you look at the economic structure of our countries, you see that it’s in agriculture where one can create the most jobs and fight massive youth unemployment,” adds Inoussa.

“We want to spotlight young people who are doing interesting things. We seek to motivate and encourage those who would like to start out in agriculture. May this inspire them!”

Inoussa’s work won support from the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), a joint institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of states and the European Union.

The CTA provided funding worth 58 000 euros ($65 000) to help launch Agribusiness TV. Inoussa came up with a further 65 000 euros from his own communications firm.

Hosenally also works full time on the channel. She translates material into English and deals with technical aspects of putting broadcasts online and managing social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

The founders surpassed their aims during the first year, with 45 000 fans on Facebook and about 800 000 viewers for their broadcasts. The website is bilingual, full of videos and a blog.

But on a continent where internet access remains patchy, the founders of Agribusiness TV are happy to make their videos available to various associations to be shown in rural settings.

“We project videos ourselves when we’re invited to conferences or meetings with players in the rural world,” says Inoussa, who hopes that his channel will benefit from the gradual progress of the internet in Africa.

“Every day, at least 15 people get in touch with us asking for the contact details of such and such an entrepreneur to whom we devoted a video,” Hosenally says.

“We’re also encouraged by the messages and the comments we receive each day,” adds Inoussa.

“These are videos that inspire people, we get a lot of feedback from the entrepreneurs we meet. Some of them tell us about contracts they have signed thanks to our work.

“All this gives hope.”

Agribusiness TV is available in French and English on dedicated apps for smartphone at www.agribusinesstv.info.
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Web TV aims to boost youth interest in African farming

Ouagadougou – With the logo of his internet TV station on his black T-shirt, Inoussa Maiga energetically plucks corn stalks in northern Burkina Faso for a programme on farming in Africa.

Maiga, 30, launched Agribusiness TV in May in the Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou, determined to change poor opinions about agricultural work held by African youth and to help develop the continent.

“All those who went to school up to a certain level consider going back to the land as a failure, as something demeaning. Yet and we see it every day in our broadcasts, there are many opportunities for young people,” he says.

In Bagre, 245 kilometres (150 miles) north of the city, Maiga has found one of the unusual topics he likes to promote: a teacher who gives classes in maths while raising pigs and growing maize, rice and groundnuts.

Other characteristic subjects are a woman in Benin with a degree in banking and finance who works in a “man’s universe of crop production” and an inventor of helpful machines for agricultural cooperatives in Togo.

The TV channel, available on the web and mobile phones, has steadily garnered a network of correspondents in Benin, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mali and Togo, with Mauritius next on the agenda.

‘Maximum age of 40

The editorial stance of Agribusiness TV has clear rules.

Features focus on people of “a maximum age of 40” who have a “pretty interesting” background in farming, stock-breeding and other “different links in the food chain”, Maiga explains.

Programmes can cover “food processing, green jobs, everything related to the environment and the business of sustainable agriculture”.

“We want people whose careers can inspire other people,” says the broadcaster, who set up the enterprise with his wife Nawsheen Hosenally.

Himself the son of a peasant farmer, Inoussa studied at the University of Ouagadougou, where he specialised in communications for development before founding Agribusiness TV.

He seeks “above all to showcase young Africans who are courageously committed to agriculture, who invest in the area, and possibly to bring a different outlook among young Africans to this sector,” he says, calling it “the motor for the development of African economies”.

‘Massive youth unemployment’

“When you look at the economic structure of our countries, you see that it’s in agriculture where one can create the most jobs and fight massive youth unemployment,” adds Inoussa.

“We want to spotlight young people who are doing interesting things. We seek to motivate and encourage those who would like to start out in agriculture. May this inspire them!”

Inoussa’s work won support from the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), a joint institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of states and the European Union.

The CTA provided funding worth 58 000 euros ($65 000) to help launch Agribusiness TV. Inoussa came up with a further 65 000 euros from his own communications firm.

Hosenally also works full time on the channel. She translates material into English and deals with technical aspects of putting broadcasts online and managing social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

The founders surpassed their aims during the first year, with 45 000 fans on Facebook and about 800 000 viewers for their broadcasts. The website is bilingual, full of videos and a blog.

But on a continent where internet access remains patchy, the founders of Agribusiness TV are happy to make their videos available to various associations to be shown in rural settings.

“We project videos ourselves when we’re invited to conferences or meetings with players in the rural world,” says Inoussa, who hopes that his channel will benefit from the gradual progress of the internet in Africa.

“Every day, at least 15 people get in touch with us asking for the contact details of such and such an entrepreneur to whom we devoted a video,” Hosenally says.

“We’re also encouraged by the messages and the comments we receive each day,” adds Inoussa.

“These are videos that inspire people, we get a lot of feedback from the entrepreneurs we meet. Some of them tell us about contracts they have signed thanks to our work.

“All this gives hope.”

Agribusiness TV is available in French and English on dedicated apps for smartphone at www.agribusinesstv.info.
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Africa’s Great Green Wall is Building Hope For the Hungry, Uniting People Across Borders

Rio de Janeiro: Beneath the glitz and glamour, the Samba and Rio’s carnival-like atmosphere, this year’s Olympic Games opening ceremony showcased the most impossible sounding dream of all – Africa’s Great Green Wall.

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The initiative started a decade ago. Once completed it will be the largest man-made structure on Earth and a new wonder of the world.

The progress made shows that land restoration efforts on a mass scale are both possible and offer hope. Senegal has already planted 12 million trees, Ethiopia has restored 15 million hectares of degraded land and Nigeria has created 20,000 jobs in rural areas.

Featured in the Rio Olympics creative director Fernando Meirelles’ film on global reforestation efforts, the Great Green Wall struck a chord as a generation-defining initiative aiming to grow an 8000 km natural wonder of the world across the entire width of Africa, against all odds.

The aim: to restore vast swathes of degraded land in a region called the Sahel and in the process provide food, jobs and a reason to stay for the millions of people living on the frontline of climate change that may be forced to migrate.

The Sahel region of Africa is one of the world’s most impoverished – a key reason being the degradation of enormous tracts of fertile land, which form the basis of people’s livelihoods here.

More than anywhere else on Earth, the Sahel is on the frontline of climate change and millions of locals are already facing its devastating impact. Persistent droughts, lack of food, conflicts over fewer natural resources, and mass migration to Europe are some of the many consequences.

Yet, local people from Senegal in the West to Djibouti in the East are fighting back. Since the birth of the initiative in 2008, life has started coming back to the land, bringing greater food security, jobs and stability to people’s lives.

Persistent drought, food insecurity, and conflicts over dwindling natural resources are some of the many consequences. Continued inaction means an estimated 60 million people could migrate to Europe from Africa’s degraded areas by 2030.

Meirelles’ film, which features footage from the UN Convention to Combat Desertification’s (UNCCD) virtual reality experience unveiled at December 2015 Paris Climate Summit, provides a stark warning of the need to restore natural resources, like land.

“The Great Green Wall is about far more than just growing trees. It is a mosaic of interventions weaving across the Sahel region that is helping to build community resilience and provide economic opportunity,” said Monique Barbut, head of the UNCCD.

“Already, it is feeding hungry families and malnourished children, putting people back to work and growing peace and security to help communities thrive once more. Most crucially, it provides young people with a genuine alternative to migrating from their communities,” she added.

During the Paris Climate Change Conference, world leaders pledged a further $ 4 billion to the initiative over the next five years. For a poor region with hardly any resources to spare, this raises hopes of moving the initiative closer to its ambition of restoring 50 million hectares of currently degraded land, and sequestering 250 million tonnes of carbon by 2030.

The Great Green Wall is an extraordinary collaborative effort that transcends geographical, political and cultural divides and is uniting people across borders on an unprecedented scale.

“This is a bold ambition that chimes with the spirit of solidarity enshrined in the Olympic dream. It is a global symbol to celebrate our common humanity in divisive and troubling times,” Barbut said.

The Great Green Wall is an African-led project with an epic ambition: to grow an 8000 km line of plants and trees across the entire African continent. Its goal is to provide food, jobs and a future for the millions of people who live in a region on the frontline of climate change.

Under the leadership of the African Union Commission, it brings together African countries and international partners that include the EU, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN, the Global Environment Facility, UNCCD andWorld Bank Group.
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Africa droughts prompt calls to start pumping untapped groundwater

Despite recent heavy rains, Ethiopia is still reeling from the worst drought to hit the country for half a century, particularly in the livestock-dependent regions of Oromia and Somali. Yet studies (pdf) suggest the country could have billions of cubic metres of untapped groundwater.

The story is the same across many parts of Africa, where farmers rely on erratic rains and depleted surface water while potentially vast groundwater reserves go ignored. Africa’s subterranean water amounts to an estimated 660,000 cubic kilometres (pdf), according to research from the British Geological Society – more than 100 times the continent’s annual renewable freshwater resources.

A new initiative co-led by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) is aiming to mobilise support for greater use of Africa’s under-used aquifers. Developed in the wake of targets set at the UN Sustainable Development Summit and the Paris climate talks last year, the goals of the Groundwater Solutions Initiative for Policy and Practice (GRIPP) include leveraging $1bn (£770m) of investments in sub-Saharan Africa for sustainable groundwater irrigation and improving groundwater access in the region for 4m rural households.

The idea is timely given widespread drought across southern and eastern Africa, yet it is not without controversy. Decades of overexploitation in north Africa(pdf), where groundwater is more abundant, have left many sedimentary aquifers dangerously depleted and in some cases degraded by saltwater intrusion. In Morocco, for example, the water table of the Saïss deep aquifer – one of north Africa’s largest aquifers – has fallen by an annual average of 3m over the past 20 years.

If the right policies and incentives are in place, however, groundwater can be exploited sustainably, argues Jeremy Bird, director general of IWMI.

Not only is groundwater more locally available and more reliable than rain in many parts of Africa, says Bird, it also serves as a better buffer to climate shocks: “It provides an opportunity for farmers to move one step up the ladder from very uncertain rain-fed irrigation, which is subject to the vagaries of climate, to supplementary irrigation, which offers them the ability to provide water when the crop really needs it.”

Improving Africa’s irrigation infrastructure has long been a goal of national policymakers and development agencies. The World Bank, for instance, is currently trying to mobilise international funders to help double irrigation levels in six countries in the drought-prone Sahel region.

The Sahel Irrigation Initiative Programme, with input from IWMI, is now considering the use of simple, farmer-managed pump bores alongside its focus on more expensive canals, reservoirs and other centrally-managed surface water infrastructure projects.

Vincent Casey, water, sanitation and hygiene senior adviser at WaterAid, however warns these simple pumps must be managed well: “Despite the advantages of convenience and affordability, the scale of pumping is very difficult to regulate which inevitably has economic consequences when groundwater is depleted.”

Africa may have considerable untapped aquifers, but not all are able to be easily and affordably accessed, says Casey. “Rural electrification has been limited, discounting the possibility of politically motivated energy subsidies that could make high powered pumping affordable to small scale farmers”. Capacity for groundwater withdrawal is also hampered by a lack of reliable hydro-geological data (Ethiopia hasmapped less than one quarter of its groundwater resources) and relevant expertise.

All these factors contribute to a patchy experience of groundwater projects to date. According to UPGro – a DFID-funded research programme examining groundwater in sub-Saharan Africa – nearly one third of such projects in sub-Saharan Africa fail within a few years of construction. The World Bank puts the estimated cost of groundwater project failures at more than $1.2bn (pdf) in lost investment over the last 20 years.

The main aim of GRIPP, which is focusing on projects not just in Africa but around the world, is to correct this trend through the promotion of research and knowledge-sharing around sustainable groundwater withdrawal practices and policies.

A vital step in this respect centres on farmer buy-in, says Ugandan water planning expert Callist Tindimugaya, vice president of the International Association of Hydrologists, a GRIPP partner. Because groundwater is an “invisible commons”, he argues, farmers struggle to know what comprises sustainable usage. Government provision of cheap power for water pumps and other price incentives to promote agricultural productivity can lead to overuse as well, he adds.

“Local initiatives to co-manage the resource are increasingly being explored as an important element in sustainable groundwater use as farmers realise their common interest in safeguarding the resource,” says Tindimugaya.

A case in point from another part of the world is in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, where farmer groups in over 700 communities agreed to collectively monitor groundwater levels, to plan their crop planting jointly and to adopt water-saving techniques. The project, which ran from 2003 to 2009, successfully reduced overexploitation (pdf) in the semi-arid state. Since the project ended, however, and without adequate governance systems in place, most of the farmer-led initiatives have ceased.

Policymakers might find incentives the best initial defence against unsustainable abstraction, says Bird. He cites a pilot project in the Chinese province of Shanxi, where farmers access set volumes of water from the state-run pumping system with pre-paid smartcards. If they use less than their quota of pumping time, they can trade it with other farmers.

“Our role is to identify the types of policies which might work in a particular situation, learn lessons from other areas and then assess the impacts of these policy decisions over time and see what the implications have been,” says Bird.
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Exponential Growth Projected in the Medical Tourism Industry

In simple words, the term Medical tourism means the act of traveling to another country in search of better, affordable and sustainable medical treatment. This can be either because the treatment in question is unavailable in the home country, is expensive or illegal. While conventionally this kind of travel was from the less developed to high developed nations for medical treatment, the trend has in recent past taken a new twist with people traveling from high to less developed countries for the same purpose. The former is however still common.

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Medical tourism can take place between continents such as Europe and Asia, between states in a continent such as from one state of America to another, or between neighboring countries in one region such as from Tanzania to Kenya in East Africa. Medical tourism has been on a steady rise in recent years, with a report by VISA and Oxford Economics valuing the industry at a staggering US$439 billion dollar.

It’s growth rate is projected to 25% annually over a period of 10 years, with 3%-4% of the world’s population estimated to travel internationally for medical treatment. The report further projects the industry to stand at approximately US$3 trillion by 2025, numbers likely to be achieved due to factors such as reduced cost of cross-border health treatment combined with attractive destinations and lack of some approved or available medical procedures and treatments in home countries among others. Some of the medical treatments mostly sought after include cardiac surgery, kidney transplant, dental treatment, bone marrow replacement, fertility related procedures etc.

While VISA’s report, supported by the Medical Tourism Index (MTI) findings pass that the United States, Asia and Europe lead in medical tourism, it is also true that Africa is making great progress in claiming a bigger share of the multi-billion dollar industry. South Africa leads as a top medical travel destination in the continent, taking position 27 out of MTI’s top 41 destinations globally. Kenya is also experiencing an exponential growth, with the industry valued at approximately US$100 billion dollars. Other African countries highly recognized in the health travel industry include Rwanda, Tunisia and Morocco.

With approximately 11 million medical tourists traveling annually across the globe, the industry is also set to benefit more from technological advancements and globalization. The medical state in every aspect is also expected to better, Africa included, as every country strives to win the race of becoming a medical hub in order to provide proper and affordable healthcare to its citizens as well as to foreigners; cashing in on the foreign currency.
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Africa has potential to become a world reference in renewable energy, new study

According to a new survey, international investors say Africa’s renewable energy industry is the most promising on the continent.

The survey which was conducted by a French research agency Havas Horizons, indicates that investors believe in the ability of Africa to become a world reference for renewable energy.

It further states that projects in this particular sector, which was long considered risky, now represent a high potential in realizing higher returns on investment .

Solar energy was highlighted as the most promising energy solution by the year 2020 and Africa is now entering a global trend of development of renewable energy at the expense of fossil fuels.

The fall in global commodity prices has not decreased investor confidence in the continent, the research says. Adding that investors are willing to keep and even increase their investments in Africa, with Ethiopia, Nigeria, Morocco, Ghana and Senegal, showing immense potential.

However, investors cited issues surrounding legal procedures and governance as some of the main setbacks.

Havas Horizons polled 55 banking and financial institutions between January 14 and February 29.
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Supporting African Jobs, Economic Growth and Sustainable Development Through Aviation

Aviation is vital to the modern, globalised world, supporting millions of jobs and driving economic growth. But the benefits of connectivity must be protected with appropriate support from governments if the air transport sector is to help fulfil its potential as a connector of people, trade and tourism and a driver of sustainable development. These are the conclusions drawn in a new report, Aviation: Benefits Beyond Borders, issued by the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG).

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Worldwide, aviation supports 62.7 million jobs and generates $2.7 trillion in gross domestic product (GDP). Not only does air transport provide significant economic benefits, but it also plays a major role in the social development of people and communities all over the globe, allowing people to travel for educational opportunities and cultural exchange, more broadly. Across Africa, specifically, air transport supports 6.8 million jobs and contributes $72.5 billion to the African continent’s GDP.

In the next 20 years, forecasts suggest that aviation-supported jobs worldwide will increase to over 99 million and GDP to $5.9 trillion. Africa is the second-fastest growing region in the world as far as international air traffic is concerned. However, the overly strict regulatory environment in the region must be simplified if Africa’s true economic potential is to be realised. For decades, industry leaders have been urging governments in Africa to unlock this potential by moving ahead with the policy of open skies in the region, allowing aviation services to flourish and continue to support growth. Industry costs in Africa, including passenger fees, are among the highest in the world. These regulatory arrangements should be improved, according to industry experts in the region.

ATAG executive director, Michael Gill, says that the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the United Nations highlights a number of goals that the international community should strive to achieve by 2030: “We found that air transport in some way supports 14 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, from decent work and economic growth to quality education and reduced inequalities. By continuing to grow in a sustainable manner, aviation can strive to be a force for good for many years to come.”

“A significant factor in our work on sustainable development is the industry’s world-leading climate action plan. We need support from governments around the world to agree on a key part of that plan at the upcoming International Civil Aviation Organization Assembly, where we hope an agreement can be reached on a global offsetting scheme for air transport. It is a vital part of our industry’s future role in helping to support development worldwide.”

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Elijah Chingoso, Secretary General of the African Airlines Association (AFRAA): “Sustainable development of air transport in Africa requires that the industry be fully liberalised, industry costs are brought down to global standards through adhering to ICAO stipulations as well as removal of constraints to the development of the industry such as monopolies and visa requirements. Reliable aviation infrastructure, efficient, inexpensive and sustainable transport services are crucial for speedy socio-economic development, regional integration and for the continent’s competitiveness in the global economy.”

Boni Dibate, Director Africa Affairs for the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO): “As the second fastest growing region for international air traffic, Africa needs efficient, cost-effective and safe air traffic management (ATM) infrastructure to fully realise the economic benefits of aviation. CANSO is working hard with its industry partners to improve the safety, efficiency and sustainability of ATM across Africa, by improving safety through its standard of excellence; providing training; disseminating best practice; and promoting opportunities for collaborative decision-making. States have a key role to play by investing in ATM infrastructure; modernising airspace by implementing the ICAO Aviation System Block Upgrades; and liberalising air transport by implementing the Yamoussoukro Declaration.”
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Facebook test massive Solar-Powered drone to beam Internet to Sub-Saharan Africa

Facebook has successfully tested its solar-powered Aquila drone, part of a fleet that will provide Internet access to parts of sub-Saharan Africa and beyond if all goes according to plan.

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The Aquila drone is massive, foreboding and terrifying, Quartz reported. It has the wingspan of a Boeing 737 jet.

It also weighs less than a car, according to The Guardian, consuming only 5,000 watts — equivalent to three hairdryers or a powerful microwave — when cruising.

The drone has a 140-foot wingspan, weighs less than 1,000 pounds, and uses laser technology that represents a breakthrough, Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg said, according to Daily Mail.

‘We’ve successfully tested a new laser that can transmit data at 10 gigabits per second,” Zuckerberg said. “That’s 10 times faster than any previous system, and it can accurately connect with a point the size of a dime from more than 10 miles away.”

The first test flight took place June 28 at low altitude in Arizona, Facebook announced Thursday. The goal is to have a fleet of drones like these flying at high altitude — 60,000 to 90,000 feet — receiving Internet data from a base station via proprietary laser connections, and beaming that data down to customers, according to Quartz.

Facebook wants the drones to be able to stay in the air, powered by just the sun, for months at a time.

In South Africa, about 14 million people use Facebook every month —  about 52 percent of Internet users in the country. A lot more needs to be done to connect the rest of Africa, said Nunu Ntshingila, Facebook head of Africa,  HTXT reported.

“There are 800 million people that yet need to be connect to the Internet, so it is important that we connect those people,” Ntshingila said. “We need to fast-forward the rate of connection, because if people can connect to the Internet, they will be able to connect to a business. This is important for businesses, but also important for the economy of a country.”

Facebook has had a remarkable year. It’s the world’s largest social network — 1.65 billion people use it every month. Its advertising business has grown faster than expected and rivals struggle to match it. Yet what Zuckerberg talks about most these days is basic Internet connectivity, The Verge reported.

In August 2013, Facebook introduced Internet.org, a controversial effort to bring online services to underserved areas including . Since then, Facebook’s connectivity efforts have expanded. It released open-source blueprints for telecommunications infrastructure in an effort to drive down data costs. It’s testing Terragraph, which delivers data 10 times faster than existing Wi-Fi networks. And it continues to expand its Free Basics program despite setbacks, such as India banning the program over net neutrality issues.

If Facebook succeeds at its goal of keeping Aquila drones in the air and delivering data for 90-day periods, the company believes it will have a powerful new tool in bringing Internet access to the entire world, The Verge reported.

Aquila was developed in Bridgwater, Somerset, U.K. The drone will use lasers to beam down Internet access to remote areas without online capacity.

Facebook has engineers at Bridgwater with experience in aerospace, avionics and software who worked for organisations such as Nasa, Boeing and the Royal Air Force, The Guardian reported.

Zuckerberg said in March 2015 that the company had been testing drones in the skies over the U.K.

The Aquila test lasted 90 minutes—three times longer than the team originally planned, according to Quartz. The drone team will work on its control systems in future tests before they attempt to fly at high altitudes. The team tested a small-scale model of the drone for months, working out kinks, before testing the real one, which is made of carbon fiber.

Whatever else Facebook does going forward, it starts with a connected world, Zuckerberg told The Verge. “If we make progress on this, it will be one of the great things that our generation can do to improve lives around the world.”

The internet-beaming super drones are part of Zuckerberg’s plan to “coat the world in Internet,” Quartz reported. The company has been criticized for potentially being able to profit from the Internet access it aims to facilitate with Internet.org, an initiative to bring Internet to the poorest part of the world.

In May 2016, Nigeria became the 40th country in the world, and the 22nd in Africa, to join Facebook’s Free Basics, Huffington Post reported.

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Green construction to address SA student accommodation crisis

The shortage of student accommodation is one of the factors that contribute to dropouts and high failure rates. African Student Accommodation Group (STAG African) is on a mission to address the student accommodation crisis in universities. To tackle the issue, the group is exploring new innovative development techniques.

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Innovative building technology (IBT) is a green alternative to bricks and mortar building with lighter steel structures that are pre-fabricated off-site. In the building process, no water is required and 87 percent of the steel used is recycled. This reduces construction costs by 13 percent and time by 40 percent.

“Construction is one of the biggest drivers of climate change and within developing economies it is also a key to growth. It is the way of the future to promote green building practices and a workforce equipped to implement them,” says John Schooling, Director of STAG African.

Schooling saw an opening in the student accommodation crisis in 2008 and decided that with innovation, his company, STAG Holdings, could build affordable and sustainable residences. According to Schooling, their research found that the average spend per student per room for universities in Africa was around R280 000 ($19,500) which he thought was high at the time and saw an opportunity.

“Through optimal architectural design and product innovation, we brought construction costs down dramatically, to around R150 000 ($10,500).” says Schooling.

The University of Fort Hare has received 244 new bed facilities built by STAG African, totalling 880 facilities built for the institution this year. The company is also responsible for building a R45 million residence at the University of Stellenbosch using innovative building technology (IBT) material.

In 2014, STAG Holdings merged with the African Student Accommodation Group to form STAG African. Since inception, the company has successfully delivered over R9-billion worth of developments.

“STAG African has helped quantify the shortfall and convince government of the need to accept the use of IBTs as a solution; we still have a long road to travel, however, we can say with 100% certainty that optimal architectural design, product innovation, the reduction of operational costs and successful grant funding are key to addressing the student accommodation crisis,” Schooling says.

He believes that there is still time for an undeveloped Africa to use green construction methods to build a sustainable industrialised and developed continent which can be an example to the rest of the world.

“I have no doubt that it is the future of world, not only Africa. Africa is at a critical position in both space and time, where sustainable building methodologies and renewable energy have become a cost-effective reality,” says Schooling.
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African Leaders to Put Effort in Water Availability

As the sixth African Ministries Council on Water and Sanitation (AMCIOW) meeting draws close, African leaders have been urged to double their efforts to make sure the continent achieves universal safe water access by 2030.

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The historic meeting to map the way forward to achieve accessibility of clean water and basic sanitation is expected to be held in Dar es Salaam next week. Water Aid Country Director, Mr Ibrahim Kabole, speaking to reporters in Dar es Salaam yesterday on the importance of the upcoming meeting, said African leaders need to add more effort to make sure the problem of availability of clean water becomes history in the continent.

“Our African leaders should undertake important measures in making water, sanitation and hygiene play an important role in economic development of the continent,” said Mr Kabole. According to available statistics, of the 1.2 billion people in Africa, 695 million people, which is more than half of the population, are without basic sanitation and 395 million are without clean water.

The statistics are expected to be worse if urgent measures will not be taken because by 2030 African’s population is expected to reach 2.2 billion. In Tanzania, 27 per cent of people do not have access to safe water, 66 per cent lack basic sanitation and hygiene and more than 33 per cent of our health centres are without safe water and sanitation facilities.

“Lack of water in health facilities puts the patients at risk of being attacked by communicable diseases, particularly women and children, therefore resulting in loss of lives of the children, the very future of any country,” noted the Water Aid Director.

He, however, applauded the government efforts to make sure the people of Tanzania have access to clean and safe water. “Water Aid is calling for a roadmap that will result in reaching everyone everywhere in Africa with safe water, improved sanitation and hygiene by 2030, in line with Sustainable Development Goals.

I believe that the government has made good progress and given the efforts of the current leadership, Tanzania can do more to achieve universal access by 2030. All African governments and stakeholders must seize the moment and make this transformation change for the poorest being achieved,” he noted.

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Source: allafrica


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