Technology (9)


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PAMACC, Nairobi-KENYA: Possibilities for swift transition to clean and efficient mobility exist more in Africa than other regions, experts have affirmed.

Experts at the ongoing Africa clean mobility week in Nairobi, Kenya believe that Africa’s readiness for the much-needed transition remains exceedingly higher than those of other regions that are deeply entrenched in dirty and inefficient fuel economies.

Africa, according to Rob de Jong, Head of the Air Quality and Mobility Unit of the UN Environment, is very ready to transit because the region depends largely on imported fuel to meet 80% of its consumption needs.

The region he added, “is not producing a lot of vehicles, most vehicles are imported and more than any other continent in the world, Africa can today decide to import cleaner cars and efficient fuel and through this, leapfrog to a new era of clean mobility.”

In other continents like Asia, where there is so much production of poor quality vehicles, its very difficult to introduce vehicle standards, but for Africa, it becomes easier for the region to set up policy frameworks that regulate the quality of fuel it imports and many African states are already doing that,” Jong said.

Experts are also of the view that a larger part of Africa's vehicular need is yet to be met even though the region is motorizing very quickly. In Kenya for example, the number of vehicles doubles every 7 years while in Europe, there are already too many cars and if Africa adopts the clean transition policy today, it will successfully influence a cleaner future.

Jane Akumu, Programme Officer at the Economy division of the Air Quality and Mobility Unit of the UN Environment sees great prospects in Africa’s transition to a clean mobility future.

“We see good prospects for progress,” Akumu said. “when we started this move less than a decade ago, Africa was predominantly using lead petrol but today its only one country that is still using lead petrol out of Africa’s 55 countries,” she says.

“What took other regions over a decade was achieved within less than 5 years in Africa,” Akumu added.

The UN Environment, on its part, has been prioritising and bringing the issues of cleaner transport into the discussions of African ministers and various stakeholders including the private sector, civil society and the media.

“Once issues are prioritised with cost-effective solutions, we see very good and remarkable progress in Africa especially when we link them with health, environment and climate change considerations, it’s a win-win situation, Jane Akumu said.


Environmental degradation has emerged as a major challenge of the 21st century, threatening communities and increasing poverty. Societies across the globe have continued to suffer from a persistently unfavourable environmental degradation leading to historical climate change disasters especially among vulnearble communties, experts say.

In a fragile global context, innovative ideas are needed more than ever to protect and conserve the environment and fight against the effects of climate change says Erik Solheim, Executive Director, UN Environment.

It is against this backdrop that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), organised a competition to select the best promising innovative environment projects by young people across the globe. Six projects were finally selected and the winners presented  at  the ongoing UN Environment general assembly December  5, 2017.

The six winners dubbed « Young Champions of the Earth »  according to UNEP officials are talented individuals between the ages of 18 and 30 with promising ideas to protect or restore the environment.

A press release from UNEP notes that the Young Champions were selected by way of an online public vote and the deliberation of a global jury. The six winners selected from over 600 applicants are, Kaya Dorey from Canada, Eritai Kabetwei- Kiribati, Adam Dixon – UK, Liliana Pazmillo - Ecuador, Omer Badokhon - Yemen and Mariama from Burkina – Faso.

Each of the six winners will receive USD 15,000 in seed funding, mentoring, training to help them realize their environmental ambitions.

In a discussion at the award event, the 2017 Young Champions of the Earth  shared their innovative ideas geared at creating positive environmental impact.

Panelist at the event highlighted the role of global youth in sustainable development and, more specifically, the ways and means to empower youth in decision making processes and harness their creativity to effect change and fight against growing poverty and youth unemployment..

Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment and Ellie Goulding, UN Environment's newest Goodwill Ambassador, joined the conversation with emphasis on what it means to be an environmentalist in 2017.

According to UNEP, the selection was very competitive with shortlisted applicants subjected to an online public vote before being considered by a global Jury comprising VICE Media Founder, Suroosh Alvi; She Leads Africa Co-founder, Yasmin Belo-Osagie; UN Environment Head, Erik Solheim; Covestro CEO, Patrick Thomas; and UN Youth Envoy, Jayathma Wickramanayake.

Apart from receiving seed-funding, the winners will also get intensive training, tailored mentorship and global publicity to help them bring their big ideas to life.

Among the winning projects is that of Mariama from Burkina Faso who wants to address the energy deficit in Africa and the devastating degradation of cropland caused by chemical fertilizers. Her project, “JACIGREEN", offers an innovative eco-solution to the problem of water hyacinth, which, she says without controlled management, can be devastating for the environment.

Water hyacinth she says is an invasive alien species that grows very rapidly in the waterways of the Niger River. Although not inherently harmful, initially purifying the waterway in which it grows, water hyacinth becomes a problem once it reaches a certain maturity by suffocating aquatic life. JACIGREEN  says she will introduce a plant-based purification mechanism to help manage fresh water sustainably and improve access to drinking water. It will simultaneously implement a system to produce organic fertilizer (via anaerobic composting) and electricity (from biogas recovered from the water hyacinth transformation process).

Another winner Adam Dixon will use horticultural innovation to tackle food insecurity and habitat loss.

What began as an appreciation of gardening from joining his mother while she pottered in the backyard became a fascination with plant growth and a drive for innovation. Dixon’s Phytoponics technology enables food crops to grow in water encased in a 100 percent recyclable polymer film, improving irrigation efficiency and reducing the amount of land use needed for horticulture.

In just one year, Dixon has built his company up to the value of $2.6 million and is supplying Europe's second largest producer of salad. Dixon’s cost-effective, rapidly deployable product is now being piloted by the World Food Programme in refugee camps to support the supply of fresh produce to thousands of people in what are often uncultivable, barren locations.

Canadian fashion designer Kaya Dorey’s unique apparel business not only delivers on sustainability but also an urban street style for a generation wanting to end wasteful consumerism of 'fast fashon'. Her ‘conscious apparel company’, NOVEL SUPPLY Co., produces garments free from toxic dyes and synthetics, and seeks to source hemp and organic cotton as well as environmentally friendly inks. The business is based on the ‘closed-loop’ philosophy of production, which strives for sustainability by improving economic and environmental goals simultaneously.

Ecuadorian biologist Liliana Jaramillo PazmiñI for her part is bringing back flora and fauna and reducing air pollution and vulnerability to natural disasters by encouraging more use of native plants in the green rooftops of our urbanized planet.

Beginning in her native city of Quito, Ecuador’s capital, a towering city with high rates of air pollution that causes inflammatory disease, Liliana has focused her research on identifying and cataloguing which native plant species are better adapted to urban environments and resilient to climate change. As more of the world’s population inhabits dense urban environments, Liliana hopes her research into which plants can best save and serve the environment will be replicated across other urban settings.

She says she dreams of a future where the urban sprawl sees cities bursting with green life across their concrete structures.

Yemeni engineer Omer Badokhon is working on biogas plants which aims to improve thousands of rural livelihoods in his war-stricken homeland. Omer, who holds a degree from Hadhramout University, researched the production and purification of biogas from landfills to generate electricity as part of his studies. He quickly realized that such devices could be put to good use at a domestic level in his country, and set out to do this himself.

The devices, which will be constructed locally under Omer’s guidance, enable the rapid decomposition of domestic organic waste, thereby maximizing the amount of biogas produced. He is working with a non-governmental organization affiliated with the Green Projects Centre to build prototypes and pilot the biogas plants.

Kiribati citizen, Eritai Kateibwi for his work on a hydroponics system that will improve human health and resilience to climate change on the low-lying island. He saw the problems caused by Kiribati’s reliance on imported, often unhealthy, food due to the challenges of growing fresh produce: diabetes, unhealthy children and a garbage problem from dealing with the packaging.

He realized that locally grown, nutritious food would reduce these problems, as well as provide entrepreneurial opportunities to the local communities. Eritai’s system, which relies on Kiribati’s abundant sunshine but uses only 10 per cent of the water of traditional crops, has already been used to produce lettuce, Chinese cabbage and tomatoes within 30 days.

He plans to use the seed financing from the award to build 200 units. Families will receive training and purchase these through micro-financing, the proceeds of which Eritai will use to build and make available more units.

NAIROBI, Kenya (PAMACC News) - The New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) in collaboration with three African universities is set to unveil the first curriculum tailored to address the political, social and cultural concerns that have been slowing biotechnology growth in the continent.

By August 2017, University of Eldoret, University of Nigeria and the Polytechnic University of Bobo-Dioulasso in Burkina Faso will enlist the first group of scientists to pursue a Masters Degree in biotechnology and its impact on food security.

Principal coordinator of the programme, Prof. Miriam Kinyua, says graduates will be able to impact positively on all aspects of food security in terms of skills, production, extension, and processing.

“The curriculum aims to demystify biotechnology as genetic engineering and prepare graduates for the challenges of industry,” says Prof. Kinyua who is also a Professor of biotechnology at University of Eldoret.

According to her, the curriculum is developed in such a way that after 20 years it is able to accommodate new market shifts and scientific advances.

“That is why this curriculum is unique because it embraces African diversity, but it also contains the content of science that should be included in a programme,” says Prof Kinyua.

The curriculum, developed with expertise from University of Gloningen in the Netherlands, is packaged into modules with a Masters degree as the baseline.

But it will also award a certificate for a month in training, a course of attendance for a week and also a diploma package.

“It is up to the demand. We will deliver according to the demand,” says Prof Kinyua.
Prof. Diran Makinde, senior advisor, Africa Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNET) under NEPAD, says such a programme is important for Africa to build its capacity since the continent is no yet food secure.

“Any technology has its own risks. But the benefits are more than the risks. We need to learn how to manage the risks. This is the purpose of this programme,” says Prof. Makinde.

According to him, NEPAD invites all African countries to adopt the curriculum if the continent is to achieve the six per cent target on agricultural productivity.

Former Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), Prof Godwin Patrick OluObasi has been described as Africa’s gift to the world of climate science. This was made know by experts at the Inaugural Prof. Godwin Olu Patrick Obasi Memorial Lecture which held today on the side-lines of the sixth conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa holding in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

In a lead presentation on the life and times of the icon of meteorology, Prof. Laban Ogallo of the IGAD-UNDP Disaster Risk Reduction Project in Kenya recalled that Prof. Obasi was active in promoting global solutions to environmental issues, with special attention to the atmosphere, fresh water and the oceans.

“He was at the forefront in drawing the world’s attention to the issue of climate change, notably in convening the second World Climate Conference, held in Geneva in 1990,” Prof Ogallo said.

According to Prof Ogallo, Obasi played an important role in the negotiations leading to the establishment of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the World Climate Research Programme, the Global Climate Observing System and the Vienna Convention on the Protection of the Ozone Layer and its Montreal Protocol.

The panel of discussants at the memorial lecture which comprised Dr. Buruhani Nyenzi of the Southern Development Community-Climate Services Centre, South Africa, Dr. Ernest Afiesimama of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), Geneva, and Dr. Degefu Workneh of the Ethiopian Meteorological Society lauded Prof. Obasi’s outstanding contributions to the science of ozone depletion.

Dr. Nyenzi recalled that it was Prof Obasi, together with the then Executive Director of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Dr. Tolba, who initiated the negotiations on the Vienna Convention and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and also contributed to the establishment of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

“Prof. Obasi gave his strong support to the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), and exercised a key leadership role together with Dr. Tolba, in the establishment of the WMO/UNEP Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He took the lead role in the organization of the Second World Climate Conference and in the establishment of the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS),” Dr. Workneh added.

For those who had the privilege of working with Professor Obasi, Dr. Afiesimama averred that “the memories of this great man who dedicated his whole life to meteorological sciences will forever be cherished.”Afiesimama further added that Prof Obasi was “a man of honour who was afraid of nothing –– except God, as Prof.Obasi himself used to say.”

Professor Godwin Olu Patrick Obasi, a Nigerian citizen, was the Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) for five four-year terms (1984-2003). Within the WMO scope of competence, he has made major contributions to the implementation of the Vienna Convention and its Montreal Protocol.

Professor Obasi served the Nigerian Government in several capacities including that of an Adviser to the Federal Government of Nigeria in meteorological research and training. From 1967 to 1976, he was Professor of Meteorology, Chairman of the Department of Meteorology and Dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Nairobi, Kenya. In 1978, he joined the WMO Secretariat as the Director of the Education and Training Department.

Before his death on the 3rd of March 2007 at age 74, Professor Obasi published over 150 scientific and technical papers and delivered hundreds of scientific and policy-related lectures to several high-level meetings, including at ministerial and Heads of State and Government levels.

PAMACC News Agency

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