7 May 2007

Zimbabwe: African Scientists to Meet in Zim

Harare — ZIMBABWE will host the East and Southern Africa Environmental Chemistry Conference and the 7th Theoretical Chemistry Conference in Africa in December this year at the country's premier resort town -- Victoria Falls.

Mr Richard Dzvukamanja, a member of the local organising committee, told The Herald that the conference will bring together African scientists to exchange ideas and research results in the field of theoretical chemistry, environmental chemistry and related fields.

He said the conference would also aim to foster collaboration among African scientists and between African scientists and those from other countries.

The conference will be held under the theme: "Science for Technology Advancement in Africa."

"Participation in the conference will not only promote chemistry research throughout universities in Zimbabwe but will give Zimbabwean scientists an opportunity to establish research links with other scientists in Africa and beyond," said Prof. Mark Zaranyika, the chairman of the Joint TCCA/ESAECC conference.

The ESAECC was formed after scientists from East and Southern Africa attending the Theoretical Chemistry Workshop in Africa and the International Chemistry Conference in Africa in Botswana in 1992 agreed to turn-hold conferences every two years.

Scientists will present papers covering a wide range of topics in the fields of theoretical and environmental chemistry.

Presentations will cover laboratory management, quality assurance, and laboratory accreditation in addition to the theoretical and environmental chemistry.

Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Developed

A team of United States researchers at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland has developed genetically modified mosquitoes resistant to a malaria parasite giving hope that one day it will be possible to mitigate the third biggest killer disease in Africa.

According to the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the genetically modified mosquitoes outbred natural mosquitoes when fed malaria-infected blood from mice.

Researchers at John Hopkins University say the new study offers a way of controlling malaria by introducing the genetically altered insects into the wild and having them outgrow their natural cousins in the wild.

The new study found out that GM mosquito survived in large numbers and laid more eggs. After nine generations, the researchers said, 70 percent of the mosquitoes were genetically modified compared to 50 percent at the beginning of the experiment.

The new study opens new avenues for malaria control programmes and may with time offer an alternative approach to the control of the disease that kills up to 2,7 million people every year out of the estimated 300 500 million cases reported across the world.

The World Health Organisation estimates that countries in sub-Saharan Africa shoulder about 90 percent of the deaths mostly in children under the age of five. Malaria accounts for 10 percent of Africa's disease burden and malaria costs the continent more than US$12 billion every year in treatment costs.

Zimbabwe recorded a decline in malaria prevalence in 2006 from three million cases to 1,8 million owing largely to the malaria roll out programme and the use of DDT for indoor spraying.

Zim Students in SA excel

Zimbabwean students in South Africa hoisted the country's academic flag high when seven of them at the University of Fort Hare were honoured by the SA Institute of Chartered Accountants recently for contributing "most meaningfully to transformation and skills development in the nation's accountancy profession."

Memory Mbewe and Edwin Hove were winners in the postgraduate student category while Patience Nyoni and Tavaziva Machigidi won awards in the second year B.Com accounting student category.

Monica Manyara and Edward Chirongo scooped awards in the third year B.Com accounting student category while Innocent Chemhere was a winner in the fourth year B.Com accounting student category.

The students together with others were honoured for showing outstanding leadership and commitment, socially and academically.

"We, as the accountancy profession, believe in helping to lead our country in a prosperous direction," said Chantyl Mulder, SAICA's senior executive for transformation.

IST-Africa 2007 Conference (Maputo May 9-11)

Zimbabwe has assembled a team of the country's top information and technology experts that will join 300 other delegates at the IST-Africa 2007 Conference and Exhibition to be held in Maputo, Mozambique.

Science and Technology Development Minister Dr Olivia Muchena leads the Zimbabwe delegation at the world-class international forum to showcase African research results, the achievements of the IST Programme of Framework and regional, national and international information communication technology related initiatives.

The IST-Africa 2007 conference aims to enhance community building to facilitate the European Union-Africa research co-operation and successful exploitation of research results.

It also aims to stimulate the take-up of research and technology development results in industry, small-to-medium sized businesses and the public sector, to promote knowledge sharing between commercial organisations, government agencies and the research community.

The conference will also give a platform to exchange experiences about the current state of e-Adoption at a sectoral, national or regional level and to support international co-operation and open up the European Research Area to Africa.

Themes to be covered include health information systems; technology enhanced learning and ICT skills, open source software applications, e-infrastructures, ICT for environmental risk management and ICT inclusion and e-accessibility.

ICT experts from ZARNet, Sirdic, eHurudza, eSecure and Afrosoft will participate at this event which provides a unique opportunity for African researchers to raise visibility of skills and competencies with European researchers who are interested in co-operating with Africa under European-funded research.

'Africa's infertility rate in the spotlight'

Africa's has the highest fertility rate in the world, which is routinely seen as problematic, yet its infertility rate, also the highest globally, gets scant attention in spite of the huge consequent risk of HIV infection.

That was the message to last week's 19th World Congress on Fertility and Sterility, held in Durban, South Africa, from Dr Silke Dyer, director of infertility services at Groote Schuur Hospital.

Dyer told delegates that studies in Cape Town, along with others in Nigeria, Mozambique and the Gambia, highlighted considerable unhappiness among infertile men and women. Practically, however, polygamy is a common consequence and, whether it's formal or informal, the practice exposes both partners to HIV infection.

Dyer quoted a Tanzanian study that turned up higher HIV prevalence rates among infertile women, when compared with pregnant women.

"Infertility, in many African settings, is a violation of the social norm. If you're fertile you're seen as moral and enjoy a social sense of superiority. But if you're infertile, you live with guilt, shame and feelings of inadequacy," she said.

Apart from extreme psychological distress, other consequences include marital instability, loss of social security, status and gender identity, and a life of isolation.

A Ugandan Aids study had also pinpointed infertility as a leading cause of marital instability, and a leading risk factor for HIV and Aids.

Professor Ian Cooke, emeritus professor at the University of Sheffield and director of education for the International Federation of Fertility Societies, told delegates that African women each gave birth to an average of 5,4 children between the ages of 15 and 49, compared with a European average of 1,5.

But he cited unsafe abortions as a major cause of Africa's highest world infertility rate, and added that sub-Saharan Africa also notched up the highest rate of sexually transmitted infections globally. -- Cape Argus

'Nairobi to host second Africa's e-learning conference'

The second e-learning Africa Conference will take place in Nairobi, Kenya from May 28 -- 30. Discussion will centre on building partnerships for education in Africa that will address the somewhat controversial topic of multi-stakeholder partnerships for education s).

Panellists from Cisco, Microsoft, Intel and Nokia will take part in the discussion for successful partnerships.

Other topics will include highlighting examples of how to enhance learning with the support of technology, China's experience in the use of e-learning for development in both the formal education sector, highlighting how African universities are adopting ICT and successful strategies for implementing ICT in Schools.

Creative and successful learner-oriented design strategies, highly innovative ICT initiatives in African schools, approaches to quality assurance in e-learning programmes, debate about the challenges and alternatives of building ICT infrastructures to provide access and connectivity in Africa will be discussed at the conference. -- e-learning-africa.com

'Nanotechnology and fight against TB'

Nanotechnology has been harnessed to fight tuberculosis in the developing world by boosting drug delivery, says a South African-led research consortium.

Led by the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, researchers from the consortium hope to combat the spread of drug-resistant TB strains. They announced their results at the World Nano Economic Congress 2007 in Pretoria recently.

Tuberculosis is currently treated via a slow release of drugs over an extended period of time. The new technique can reduce the number of times drugs have to be administered and thereby help patients meet their treatment needs.

TB sufferers currently take a daily dose of up to four drugs. In developing countries such as South Africa, they can find it difficult to stick to the six-month-long treatment regime, which requires them to travel long distances to reach the nearest health clinics. Many fail to comply with treatment regimes as a result.

Over the long term, such non-compliance has resulted in the emergence of multi-drug resistant and extra-drug resistant TB.

Using nanotechnology, researchers have devised new drug delivery methods that may solve this problem.

Lead researcher Hulda Swai, from CSIR's Centre for Polymer Technology is aiming for a shorter treatment regimen and a single dose drug application that will last for several days or weeks.

Professor Ben Marais of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Stellenbosch University said, "There is a desperate need for research into TB drug therapy. We would welcome any new technology which improved compliance and reduced the risk of resistance."

Swai said the research is important because existing drugs can be re-packaged in a way that will improve delivery and patient compliance to treatment.

"We aim, by using TB as a model disease, to set up a platform in South Africa where we will encapsulate both current and novel therapeutic drugs for malaria, Aids and cancer, as well as for other neglected diseases that affect not only South Africa, but Africa as a whole,' she said. -- Sci-Dev

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