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LAGOS, July 17, 2018 (News Wires) - With its colourful hammocks and table tennis table, a new tech hub in the Lagos metropolis wouldn’t look out of place among the start-ups on the other side of the world in Silicon Valley.

But the NG_Hub office is in the suburb of Yaba — the heart of Nigeria’s burgeoning tech scene that is attracting interest from global giants keen to tap into an emerging market of young, connected Africans.

In May, both Google and Facebook launched initiatives nearby.

This week, Nigeria’s Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo was in California to court US tech investors for what he said could herald a “fourth industrial revolution” back home.

But it isn’t just Nigeria that is piquing the interest of tech giants.

Last month, Google said it would open Africa’s first artificial intelligence lab in Ghana’s capital, Accra.

Demographics are a key factor behind the drive: Africa’s population is estimated to be 1.2 billion, 60 per cent of them under 24. By 2050, the UN estimates the population will double to 2.4 billion.

“There’s a clear opportunity for companies like Facebook and Google to really go in and put a pole in the sand,” said Daniel Ives, a technology researcher at GBH Insights in New York.

“If you look at Netflix, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, where is a lot of that growth coming from? It’s international,” he said.

Facebook is operating from the NG_Hub as it doesn’t yet have a permanent office in Nigeria.

The company’s Africa head of public policy, Ebele Okobi, said at the opening of the premises that the goal was to cultivate the nascent technology community.

The social network has pledged to train 50,000 people across the country to “give them the digital skills they need to succeed”, she added.

In exchange, Facebook, which currently has some 26 million users in Nigeria, gets more users and access to a massive market to test new products and strategies.

“We are invested in the ecosystem. Just the fact that they are engaging... that in of itself is a goal,” she added.

 

TARIFA, Spain, July 7, 2018 (News Wires) - Spain has become the new main entry point for asylum-seekers fleeing Africa, an influx that European Union officials fear could exacerbate political tensions across the region over migration.

Around 19,000 asylum-seekers arrived in Spain in the first five months of this year, almost as many as arrived there in all of 2017, a record year, and eclipsing for the first time the numbers flowing through north Africa to Italy.

The surge has intensified in recent weeks as Italy's new government shut its ports to most asylum-seekers, rescue officials say.

With the EU struggling to contain dissent over migration policy, some officials in Brussels say they worry that Spain could become a new flash-point, even as overall numbers of arrivals into Europe from Africa are in sharp decline.

"We must not let it blow up," an EU diplomat said.

He said the Morocco-Spain route had been kept under control for years. "It's not dramatic for now, but we are keeping an eye on this one."

Spain's new socialist prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, has been welcoming, and accepted two boat-loads of asylum-seekers denied port entry by Italy even as the number of boats from Morocco also rose.

The asylum-seekers are arriving in mostly inflatable boats each week, often without enough fuel for the crossing, straining Spain's coastguard. Madrid is training more lifeguards to deal with the rising numbers, coastguard union officials say.

People-smugglers in Morocco use a rights activist to contact the coastguard, advising it when boats set off for Spain, said coastguard official Oriol Estrada.

"The people traffickers know that the lifeguards are going to come for them," said Estrada, whose vessel has rescued around 1,200 people so far this year, more than 80 percent of its total for 2017."They call to say that a certain boat has left such-and-such a coast at a certain time with however many people. They even give the names of those aboard."

A similar situation developed off Libya before Rome's recent crackdown, prompting Italy's ruling League party to accuse rescue ships of running a "taxi service".

Rescue officials working in the Strait of Gibraltar say more Asian migrants from countries like Pakistan and Sri Lanka are also crossing, another sign that smuggling networks are focusing more of their efforts on Spain.

Morocco is a destination in itself for those fleeing poverty and violence in sub-Saharan Africa, but it has become more of a stepping stone as people determined to reach Europe realize the Libya-Italy route may be worse than futile, refugees say.

"In Libya I saw migrants being fired at with live ammunition. A friend of mine was killed in front of my eyes by a Libyan teenager," said Guinea migrant Oumar Dialo, who tried and failed to reach Europe via Libya before ending up in Morocco.

"I would never recommend Libya even to my enemy."

By the Gazette Editorial Board

FOR many reasons, Egypt's active participation in the planning and steering of joint African action at all bilateral, sub-regional, regional and continental levels reflects a genuine orientation and comes also in harmony with our basic policies and national aspirations. A good case in point is the latest African Union (AU) summit that wound up its work in the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott yesterday.

The advancement of security, gender equality and economic integration for development were the three major issues that apparently drew much of the summit's attention and emphasis. On each of these issues, Egypt's efforts at home and political and diplomatic contacts with fellow African countries have been noticeably fruitful. At home, security stability is now permeating the country in such a manner that drives the dynamism of the national economy and encourages the growth of investment opportunities as President Abdel Fattah El Sisi noted at a meeting with a visiting Chinese CP official last week. In parallel to the making of this achievement, Egypt has sought to develop co-operation with countries and groupings concerned with the fight against terrorism, organised and cross-border crimes and human trafficking. The latest case of this attitude of developing multiple-level co-operation to defeat terrorism was the setting up of a regional centre for combating terrorism for African Sahel-Saharan states (CEN-SAD). In appreciation of this move, the defence ministers of those states sent, at the conclusion of a meeting in the Nigerian capital of Abuja last week, a message to President Sisi thanking him for having honoured his pledge to establish the centre in record time.

As regards the AU engagement in the fight against corruption, Egypt's own record has been one of efficiency in promoting the transparency of administrative procedures and clamping down on all forms of corruption no matter how senior a public personality implicated in financial or administrative wrong-doing may be. With the enactment of a law for the Administrative Audit Agency, tracking down illegal gains has acquired additional effectiveness and expeditiousness. Showcasing the marked progress achieved in the fight against corruption is the chain of measures and campaigns initiated by the government bodies concerned to remove encroachments on public spaces and restore state-owned lands and properties.

Turning to the issue of gender equality and the empowerment of women, it suffices indeed to refer to the inclusion of as many eight female ministers in the recently sworn-in government of Dr Moustafa Madbouli. The number and the portfolios provide the strongest indication of the large extent of that the status of woman has gained politically, socially, economically and culturally.

It follows, therefore, that Egypt's contribution to the promotion of joint African action at bilateral, sub-continental and continental levels enjoys both credibility and efficiency particularly since such contribution comes in pursuance of the country's own and basic orientations.

CAIRO, July 1, 2018 (MENA) – Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli asserted on Sunday Egypt’s keenness on signing a deal that aims at establishing the African Free Trade Zone (AFTZ) in Kigali in March, 2018.

This came during his speech, on behalf of President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, before the African Union Summit currently being held in Mauritania.

He said the deal is considered a great step to achieve economic integration and the goal of forming the African economic group.

The premier also hailed efforts exerted by Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou to establish the AFTZ.

AFTZ creats real economic opportunities for entrepreneurs and investors in Africa, Madbouli reiterated.

SAMARA, June 27, 2018 (News Wires) - If Senegal fail to hold off Colombia in their last group game on Thursday and are knocked out of the World Cup in Russia, all five African representatives will have been eliminated, in the worst return for the continent since the 1982 finals in Spain.

Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and Tunisia are already eliminated, and if Senegal lose to Colombia in Samara in Group H, and Japan avoid defeat against Poland at the same time, Africa's interest in Russia will come to an abrupt end.

In every tournament since the 1986 finals in Mexico, at least one African country has made it through to the knockout stages – even when there were only three African teams in the field.

Africa's allocation was increased to five places when the World Cup was expanded to 32 teams in France in 1998, and when South Africa hosted the 2010 finals there were six African sides.

Ghana, riding a wave of popular support, got within a whisker of a semifinal place at that tournament, but the others all bombed out early.

Algeria and Nigeria advanced in Brazil four years ago, but the latest batch of African sides have produced a poorer return.

Morocco drew some positive reviews but picked up only one point, while Nigeria lost out late in a drama-filled match against Argentina on Tuesday.

Egypt and Tunisia, however, were out of contention after just two games.

Senegal, who have four points from their first two games, can save the situation. But even if they progress, the latest batch of performances will further mute calls for greater representation at future tournaments.

With 54 member countries, Africa has only one less nation than Uefa, European football’s governing body, but Europe has the lion's share of teams at the World Cup – 14 including host Russia.

The expanded 48-team World Cup set to be held in north America in eight years’ time will see Africa getting nine places, still far fewer than Europe's 16 slots.

African countries used to point to the imbalance as unfair.

But this argument has been quietly abandoned as results have failed to back calls for increased representation. The continent's performance in Russia so far looks unlikely to change that situation.

KAMPALA, Uganda, June 24, 2018 (AP) — Languishing with fever and frustrated by delays in diagnosing his illness, Brian Gitta came up with a bright idea: a malaria test that would not need blood samples or specialized laboratory technicians.

That inspiration has won the 25-year-old Ugandan computer scientist a prestigious engineering prize for a non-invasive malaria test kit that he hopes will be widely used across Africa.

For developing the reusable test kit known as Matibabu, Gitta this month was awarded the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation. The award by the Royal Academy of Engineering in Britain comes with A£25,000 ($32,940).

Malaria is the biggest killer in Africa, and the sub-Saharan region accounts for about 80 per cent of the world’s malaria cases and deaths. Cases rose to 216 million in 2016, up from 211 million cases in 2015, according to the latest World Malaria Report, released late last year. Malaria deaths fell by 1,000, to 445,000.

The mosquito-borne disease is a challenge to prevent, with increasing resistance reported to both drugs and insecticides.

The new malaria test kit works by shining a red beam of light onto a finger to detect changes in the shape, colour and concentration of red blood cells, all of which are affected by malaria. The results are sent within a minute to a computer or mobile phone linked to the device.

A Portugal-based firm has been contracted to produce the components for Matibabu, the Swahili word for “treatment.”

“It’s a perfect example of how engineering can unlock development – in this case by improving health care,” Rebecca Enonchong, Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation judge, said in a statement. “Matibabu is simply a game changer.”

Gitta and five colleagues, all trained in computer science or engineering, developed an affordable, bloodless test that does not need a specialist to operate. The test will be suitable for use in Africa’s rural areas, where most cases of malaria occur, because it will not depend on sending blood samples to a distant laboratory.

Others are also working to fill the need for quicker, easier malaria tests. There are over 200 rapid diagnostic test products for malaria on the market, according to the WHO.

The fifth-generation prototype of Matibabu, with an accuracy rate of 80 per cent, is still a work in process. Gitta and his group aim to refine the device until it achieves an accuracy rate exceeding 90 per cent.

Matibabu has yet to be formally subjected to all the necessary clinical trials under Ugandan safety and ethics regulations.

“It excites me as a clinician,” said Medard Bitekyerezo, a Ugandan physician who chairs the National Drug Authority. “I think the National Drug Authority will approve it.”

The government should invest in the project so that its developers don’t struggle financially, he added. The unit cost of the latest prototype is about $100.

Despite the optimism, Gitta has found a hurdle he didn’t anticipate: Some patients are skeptical of unfamiliar technology.

“The doctors will tell you that some people will not leave the hospital until their children have been pricked, and until they have been given anti-malaria drugs and painkillers, even if the kid is not sick,” he said.

“We think we are developing for hospitals first, so that people can first get attached to the brand, and gain the trust of patients over time.”

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