(All Africa) 10 Things to Watch in Africa in 2016

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Joseph Kabila of DRC. Photo Credit: Paul Kagame

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Joseph Kabila of DRC.
Photo Credit: Paul Kagame

ANALYSIS

By Nick Branson and Jamie Hitchen

Staying Power: Referenda in the Republic of Congo and Rwanda have paved the way for presidents Sassou Nguesso and Kagame to extend their tenures. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), President Kabila appears intent on remaining in power beyond the end of his second term in November 2016. Kabila’s political machinations have been met with violent protest and international opprobrium. By contrast in Benin, incumbent president Boni Yayi has resolved to step down when he completes his second term in February 2016.

Africa Debt Rising: Sovereign bond issuance rose dramatically as commodity markets peaked in 2014, before tailing off as the price of oil and export minerals collapsed. With budget deficits approaching unsustainable levels in many countries and the supply of cheap debt in decline, some African governments face tough choices – cut spending or dramatically improve domestic revenue collection. This new reality will be inescapable for Zambia and Ghana in an election year. In 2015, their currencies were devalued substantially and visits from the IMF further raised concerns about the sustainability of debt levels. 2016 may see the IMF revert to a more familiar role of supervising austerity measures, albeit in a less conspicuous fashion than during the structural adjustment era; whilst Ghana accepted IMF support, Zambia has so far rejected a financial bailout package.

Economic Opportunity: African economies that rely heavily on oil and other commodity exports – including Nigeria, Angola and Zambia – continue to suffer due to low or declining prices. But this setback also provides an opportunity to focus on diversifying their economies. In Nigeria, there is much talk of revitalising agriculture. In East Africa, efforts are being made to reduce economic inefficiencies and improve productivity: progress in regional telecom reform, for example, demonstrates much from which the rest of the continent can learn.

Insecurity in Nigeria: Many Nigerians voted for Muhammadu Buhari because of his campaign commitments to tackle corruption and defeat Boko Haram. The arrest of former National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki for allegedly overseeing illicit and financially fraudulent transactions worth billions of naira is highly symbolic. Despite an announcement that the government has “technically won the war” against the Boko Haram insurgency, military action has not yet been convincing and the threat remains. The renegotiation of the Niger Delta amnesty and recent agitation by Biafran separatists illustrate the security challenges facing Buhari’s government.

Urban Transport: In September 2015 Addis Ababa opened the first part of a new 17km light rail system funded in part by Chinese investment. A similar venture that forms part of the urban plan in Lagos has been beset by delays. However, Governor Ambode of Lagos State has promised that the first line will be operational by December 2016. Dar es Salaam’s bus rapid transit (BRT) system failed to open as planned in October 2015 but is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2016. New urban transport networks will need to be affordable for the everyday commuter if they are to successfully reduce congestion and improve the productivity of cities.

Flying Donkeys: The world’s first civilian cargo drone station is set to open in Rwanda in 2016. “Flying donkeys” will be capable of carrying small packages across distances of up to 80km and could help to overcome some infrastructure challenges. Regulation concerning the use of unmanned vehicles is in the process of being drafted by Rwanda’s civil aviation authority and a successful pilot should see a nationwide network of cargo drone routes established.

 

Sorting out the Union: The post-election crisis in Zanzibar has highlighted the shortcomings of Tanzania’s current political configuration and reignited calls for power to be shared more equitably among the constituent parts of the Union. Tanzania remains the only African nation to possess a dual-government structure, a lopsided arrangement that falls short of being a fully-fledged federation. Zanzibar retains its own executive, legislature, and judicial system; while a parliament in Dodoma and a president in Dar es Salaam take decisions for both the mainland and the Union as a whole. Tanzania’s president, John Magufuli, may consider constitutional reform as a solution to the impasse in Zanzibar; however, he will face resistance from his own party, which has repeatedly rejected changes to the status quo.

The Prominence of Social Media: African youth harnessed the potential of modern communication tools to mobilise protests in Burkina Faso and South Africa, successfully preventing a military coup and halting significant rises in university tuition fees. Twitter hashtags are becoming important tools for mobilisation and are likely to become more prominent as the cost of communication decreases. Governments are already responding to this perceived threat. Tanzania rushed through four pieces of legislation relating to access to information, media, statistics and cybercrime in 2015, while Nigeria may adopt a social media bill in 2016.

The Battle for the ANC: In South Africa, rumours have been circulating about plots to oust President Zuma mid-term. Zuma famously usurped Mbeki as ANC president at the national conference in Polokwane in December 2007, positioning him to become head of state, following the April 2009 elections. Zuma’s decision to fire Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister was an assertion of his authority that backfired. With the ruling party likely to lose control of important metropolitan authorities at municipal elections in 2016, the campaign to succeed Zuma will dominate South African politics right up until the next ANC national conference in December 2017.

A Changing Climate: In 2015, flooding in Freetown and Accra devastated urban areas whilst El Niño brought drought to rural Zimbabwe and Ethiopia. Unpredictable weather will be a continuing feature in years to come, despite the agreement reached at COP21 in Paris. Long term commitments can work alongside short-term solutions: improved urban management and support for the growing of drought resistant crops like finger millet. But weather can also offer opportunity for the continent. Renewable energy, in particular solar, wind and geothermal, has been cited as a key avenue for tackling the power deficit on the continent by African Development Bank president, Akinwumi Adesina.

Nick Branson and Jamie Hitchen are researchers at ARI.

Mobile Health Solutions enabling efficient healthcare

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The biggest tech trend in Africa, and the one that is making the biggest impact on the everyday lives of people is the rise of smartphones and feature phones.

Africa has seen the fastest uptake of mobile devices in the world and mobile subscribers are set to hit half a billion in the next five years, according to the GSMA.

This statistic supports the fact that mobile technology is and will continue to be the most powerful communications platform in Africa. Driven by cheaper mobile devices and continued innovation in the mobile space, mobile technology has the power to and will transform the delivery of healthcare service into Africa.

The obstacles we face in africa, however, are the infrastructural challenges that are hindering the adoption of consumer facing apps and limiting integration with local health systems. There is however a way to circumvent these.

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New Diagnostic Device May Help End Africa’s Struggle With Malaria

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For over two decades, the quest to develop a working malaria vaccine has proven largely fruitless. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 3.2 billion people worldwide are at risk of being diagnosed with malaria. Every year, nearly 198 million cases are identified. WHO says a significant number of the almost 200 million cases are from Africa. However in recent times not only is there a potential malaria vaccine in the pipeline, a new device which is capable of diagnosing Malaria in minutes has emerged.

John Lewandowski, co-founder and CEO of Disease Diagnostics Group, has invented a new way of diagnosing the deadly disease using two magnets and a laser pointer. He believes that this will eradicate malaria by strengthening the offensive against it, while curbing issues regarding delay in detection.

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Having a Robot in an Ebola ward

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In November, with the Ebola outbreak in West Africa showing no signs of slowing, the list of people climbing aboard planes to Liberia and Sierra Leone was not terribly long. Deborah Theobald, the co-founder of Cambridge-based health care company Vecna Technologies, was one of them. Accompanying her were two new tools that, it was hoped, could aid health workers trying to care for stricken patients.One was a briefcase-sized electronic medical record system, a field-ready version of a product that Vecna Technologies designed to digitally store and share patient information.

The other was “telepresence” robot made by New Hampshire company VGo Communications — a camera and recording system on wheels that could be controlled from afar by an iPad app, meant to help nurses talk to each other across containment zones.

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Drones in Healthcare

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Drones in Healthcare

I think the world has become fascinated by drones. I know I have. I got one for Christmas and it’s really fun to play with. The one I got is really hard to fly, but in many ways that makes it more fun.

What a lot of people don’t realize is how many ways drones are going to be part of our future life. No, I’m not talking about the military drones. In fact, using the term drones is so tied to the military that it’s almost not right to use the term. However, many people have become more familiar with drones thanks to Go pro cameras that are attached and bring us some really amazing footage even from amateurs.

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New machine could one day replace anesthesiologists

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The new machine that could one day replace anesthesiologists sat quietly next to a hospital gurney occupied by Nancy Youssef-Ringle. She was nervous. In a few minutes, a machine — not a doctor — would sedate the 59-year-old for a colon cancer screening called a colonoscopy.

But she had done her research. She had even asked a family friend, an anesthesiologist, what he thought of the device. He was blunt: “That’s going to replace me.”

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Africa: How Malaria Fight Saved Millions – Why It Matters

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Durham, NC — The latest statistics show impressive progress in the fight against malaria — a 46 percent decrease in infections among children in sub-Saharan Africa and an estimated 4.3 million deaths averted globally.

A substantial increase in international funding has contributed to those achievements. The U.S. government is among the major funders of malaria control through its President’s Malaria Initiative– one of the few international assistance programs that has garnered bipartisan support through the Bush and Obama terms.

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West Africa: Managing Health Crises After Ebola: Key Resources

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The ongoing outbreak of Ebola in West Africa is the largest and longest since the virus was discovered four decades ago. Many organisations have been fighting this epidemic and grappling with social, cultural and political factors.

The need for social science and effective communications when responding to outbreaks is clearer than ever, as is the need to look critically for lessons that can guide future efforts. The resources below summarise the various institutions helping to fight the epidemic and highlight communication efforts.

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Nigeria: Malaria Vaccine for Children Coming Soon

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Medical experts have hailed a malaria vaccine that will prevent millions of young children from catching the disease, which could be available in October after trial results found that it reduces number of cases by half.

Researchers say the vaccine, which has just completed the final stages of testing, could make a ‘substantial contribution’ to controlling the disease.

Drug firm, GlaxoSmithKline has applied for a licence from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for the RTS,S vaccine. The news is significant because RTS,S is the first malaria vaccine to reach advanced trials.

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New Possibility for Controlling Malaria Mosquitoes: Africa: Chemical Cons Malaria Mosquitoes About to Lay Eggs

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Around 600,000 people die from malaria every year. The vast majority of these deaths occur in Africa, where female Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes are responsible for transmitting malaria between people.

Current mosquito control methods, which include insecticide-covered bed nets and indoor insecticide spraying, have dramatically reduced malaria transmission in many communities. But they have little impact on mosquitoes that bite outdoors.

In a world-first study, a team of international scientists has discovered a chemical called cedrol that attracts pregnant female Anopheles mosquitoes.

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