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The East African : February 3rd 2014
28 The EastAfrican OUTLOOK FEBRUARY 1-7,2014 S CI E N C E implementation. The draft policy also wants to co-ordinate the fragmented activities on the continent. This will involve not only as- sessing the needs of the nascent space industry, but also adopting good governance and management structures. But it is not clear in the draft policy who should carry out these activities. The draft speaks of the estab- NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO)-2, one of five new NASA Earth science missions to be launched this year. A policy is in the offing on how African countries will regulate jointly space activities Picture: FILE Worthy space policy but what about its execution? Ministe≥ial confe≥ence to discuss a d≥aft befo≥e adoption by Af≥ican Union By LINDA NORDLING Special Correspondent A frica’s first space policy is nearly ready, but it raises more ques- tions than it answers. The Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) in Cape Town last year became the first African university to launch a microsatellite into orbit. ZACUBE-1, which blasted into space on the back of a Russian rocket on November 21 last year, will monitor weather in the upper atmosphere. That a modestly equipped univer- sity such as CPUT was able to build and launch the 10 cubic centimetre microsatellite shows how space technology has become cheaper and more accessible. In the week that ZACUBE-1 was launched, more than 50 other satellites from countries outside Africa also left the Earth. This proliferation is opening up opportunities for African countries to use satellite technology such as Global Positioning System and remote sensing for projects such as the disease modelling, disaster management or weather prediction. But it has also created an urgent demand for co-ordination and regulation of space activities at country and continental levels. These demands have not by- passed Africa. Last December, officials from across the continent met in Pretoria, South Africa, to discuss the draft of a long-awaited African space policy. The draft policy identifies two high-level policy goals for the conti- nent: First, to use space science and technology to boost quality of life for Africans and to create wealth. Second, it wants to build Africa’s own space technology capacity in order to establish a local space industry that can service the needs of the African market. The draft policy emphasises the need to leverage existing projects and infrastructure to achieve these goals. That means that those countries that already have some space capacity, such as Nigeria and South Africa, will play a big role in the policy’s In the week that ZACUBE1 was launched, more than 50 other satellites from countries outside Africa also left the Earth. lishment of a continent-wide “organisational framework” to integrate Africa’s existing space capabilities and assets. This would monitor African space activities for compliance with international rules, as well as co-ordinate the continental space plan. It is unclear whether this pro- posed framework would be a simple intra-agency programme to coordinate national space activities, or whether it will take the shape of a new African Space Agency. The second option would imitate developments in Europe, where a European Space Agency (ESA) was established to promote investment in, and sustainability of, countries’ individual space activities. The ESA has also created a big- ger space market in Europe, which has encouraged larger public investments. An African agency would have more clout and presence than a programme. But it could throw up a host of resource issues (who will pay for its staff and premises?) as well as stoke political arguments (where should it be located?), which could lead to delays setting it up and getting its activities off the ground. In the short term, perhaps solid investments in science, technology, engineering and mathematics teaching and training for African youth, combined with a slow but steady growth in space funding, may yield better results than focusing too much on a joint structure. SciDev.Net Team to p≥obe vanishing of glacie≥s f≥om Rwenzo≥i By A SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT SCIENTISTS AND policymakers are on a mission to acquire new information on how the climate and the glaciers of Africa’s mountains interact. A two week expedition to the Rwenzori Moun- tains, which began on January 18, is expected to find out effects of the interaction on local communities. TheRwenzori is also known as Mountains of the Moon, lie on the border between southwestern Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo and are known to have shrinking glaciers. Scientists have predicted that the Rwenzori Mountains’ glaciers may vanish as early as the mid-2020s. “The shrinking of these unique African gla- ciers, along with the obvious loss sustainable water supplies, pose major threats to local communities,” said Luc Hardy, the leader of the expedition and founder of PaxArctica, an organisation that promotes awareness of the impact of climate change on arctic regions. Studies have also shown that from 1906 to Glaciers on Rwenzori Mountains have been shrinking in the recent past. Picture: FILE 2003, Rwenzori Mountains areas that have glaciers decreased from 7.5 square kilometres to less than 1 square kilometre. Research efforts to discover the ecological consequences of the glaciers on mountain ecosystems and the impact of their disappearance are now critical, said Mr Hardy. The four-member team — including experts from Makerere University’s Mountain Resource Centre and Green Cross International — will collect data on the width, length and thickness of the ice floor, the plant species in the region and soil acidity. Photographs and videos from the study will be given to Makerere University’s Mountain Resource Centre, for which the expedition is also meant to build glacial monitoring capacity. The team hopes to raise awareness of Africa’s vanishing glaciers and the global water crisis, according to a joint statement from PaxArctica, Makerere University and Green Cross International. Chebet Maikut, deputy director of the climate change unit of Uganda’s Ministry of Water and Environment, said: “The showcasing study will inform decision-makers on which policies to pass and the actions to encourage community to take.” He added: “The information will also guide us in budget allocation and how we sign agreements with our neighbours because some of these are transboundary resources.” In May 2013, the River Nyamwamba in Kasese district located at the foot of Rwenzori Mountains flooded, causing four deaths and displacing 1,500 people. The local communities blamed the flooding on the Rwenzoris’ melting glaciers. SciDev.Net BRIEFS Kenya now at risk of viral bird flu from China Kenya is at risk of the influenza A (H7N9) virus common in poultry and other birds. Principal Secretary of Livestock Department Khadijah Kassachoon said cordial relations and technical co-operation between Kenya and China that have resulted in increasing movement of goods and services could aid the spread of the disease. “This therefore means that the potential risk of H7N9 spreading to Kenya is very high as the movement is in both urban and rural areas,” said Dr Kassachoon. Study on preferences for cassava variety planned Researchers intend to conduct surveys on consumers’ preferences for various processed cassava products in Tanzania, Cameroon, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Benin. The study also aims to get a better understanding of the variety of processed cassava products in the five countries and their quality. It is funded under a global programme on roots, tubers and banana of the CGIAR and it is one of three case studies to be conducted as part of efforts to boost post harvest management of roots, tubers and banana. Cassava. Pic: File Novartis to subsidise drugs in Kenya Novartis Pharma of Switzerland has established a global patient access programme, working locally with Nairobi Hospital to treat chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Under the programme (Gipap), Novartis fully subsidises the costs of cancer medication for 450 Kenyan CML patients in need. Novartis will also works with the Kenya Research Medical Institute to build capacity for clinical trials, training, R&D in Kenya. Dar to establish cancer centres in two hospitals Two Tanzanian hospitals will soon have cancer centres to provide patients with timely diagnostic and curative services. Health and Social Welfare Minister Seif Rashid, said the government would establish centres in Moshi municipality and Mbeya Regional Referral Hospital first. The programme is part of Phase II of the Tsh130 billion ($78.2million) Aga Khan Hospital expansion project designed to cover cardiac specialties.
January 27th 2014
February 10th 2014