Tag: Africa

How Senegal and its Astronomers are Helping NASA’s New Horizons Program Make Discoveries in Space

Outside Dakar, people got a look at the heavens last week through one of the New Horizons space program’s telescopes. (Credit: Tomas Munita for The New York Times)

by Jaime Yaya Barry and Dionne Searcey via nytimes.com

DAKAR, Senegal — When Salma Sylla was a little girl, she tried to find relief from Senegal’s steamy hot season by retreating to the roof of her home to sleep. Restless and overheated, she would lie awake staring at the stars.

The area where she lived outside Dakar, the capital, had no electricity, and the heavens sparkled. She tried to count the stars, realizing more shone on some nights than on others.

Ms. Sylla, now 37, was intrigued. But studying the stars in Senegal was not easy: High school courses were limited; libraries rarely had books on space; telescopes were few and expensive.

Not much has improved since Ms. Sylla was a girl; astronomy offerings are extremely limited in Senegal’s universities. But officials here hope to change that, as part of a mission to improve science, technology, engineering and math skills by bolstering the country’s university programs and building a science and research center.

The undertaking is part of “Emerging Senegal,” a broad development strategy by President Macky Sall that also includes plans for a planetarium.

The effort got a lift last week, when Senegal welcomed a team of more than three dozen scientists from the United States and France, part of NASA’s New Horizons program. The scientists fanned out across the countryside in hopes of observing the silhouette cast by an ancient chunk of rock orbiting beyond Pluto as it passed in front of a bright star.

The viewing was intended to help the team prepare for when the plutonium-powered New Horizons spacecraft passes by the object — nicknamed Ultima Thule (Beyond the Known World) — on New Year’s Eve. “This is the farthest exploration of anything in space that has ever taken place, by quite a lot,” said Alan Stern, project leader for NASA’s New Horizons mission. “We are way, way out there.”

For the scientists, coming to Senegal was a process of elimination. Most of the areas that offered the best viewing were in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The other options — in neighboring Mali, for example — were in areas patrolled by violent extremists.

The countryside of Senegal is peaceful, parts of it do not have electricity, and many rural areas are sparsely populated. That was a bonus for the scientists, who wanted a clear sky, free of light. Still, Senegal was a risky proposition. The area is on the cusp of the rainy season, and cloudy skies threatened to block the event, which occurred early Saturday and lasted less than a second.

Scientists are still evaluating data from the viewing, but the skies turned out to be clear and they are hopeful. Senegal was an enthusiastic host. About two dozen Senegalese astronomers and scientists, including Ms. Sylla, accompanied the New Horizons team in the field and contributed to the viewing.

African countries have racked up their own space achievements. Moroccan astronomers have discovered comets, asteroids and planets outside our solar system. Ghana’s first satellite is now orbiting the earth. Students in Tunisia have organized public events to observe the sky, even though they do not have an observatory.

“Astronomy is virtually as popular in Africa as it is everywhere in the world,” said David Baratoux, the president of the African Initiative for Planetary Sciences and Space, who is based in France.

The biggest hindrance is money. The United States spends more on its space program than the value of Senegal’s entire economy. The 21 high-powered telescopes brought by the New Horizons team were nearly double the number of telescopes available in all of Senegal.

Continue reading “How Senegal and its Astronomers are Helping NASA’s New Horizons Program Make Discoveries in Space”

Nigerian-Born Taofeek Abijako, 19, is Youngest Designer to Show at Men’s New York Fashion Week

Head-of-State+ founder Taofeek Abijako (Photo by Nicolas Hunt via Getty Images)

by  via teenvogue.com

At just 19-years-old, this week, Nigerian-born designer Taofeek Abijako became the youngest designer to present a collection at New York Fashion Week: Men’s. Taofeek held a presentation for his brand Head of State+s spring/summer 2019 collection, which paid homage to 70s afro-futurism styles and West African youth culture.

Head-of-State+ first caught the eye of the fashion community weeks after its official launch in 2016. According to The New York Times Style Magazine, Japanese luxury retailer United Arrows found his self-produced lookbook on Twitter and began stocking the brand shortly after. The following year The New York Times Style Magazine labeled Head of State+ a “brand to watch”, and sure enough, the industry took notice. At the time, Taofeek was a senior in high school living in his parents Albany, New York home. He had only immigrated from Nigeria just two years prior and had just retired his soccer cleats to focus on fashion completely.

The brand’s latest offering, entitled Genesis, is the fourth collection from Taofeek. Genesis reflects the high-end streetwear aesthetic Taofeek has been exploring since its inception, and featured light trucker jackets, white tailored pants, and fitted knitwear. Speaking to the CFDA Taofeek explained, “Genesis is the translation of Afro-futurism portrayed by the likes of Parliament-Funkadelic and Sun Ra through the lens of West African youth – while at the same time celebrating the vibrancy of West African youth culture in the ‘70s and drawing parallels to modern time. The continuous homage to Fela Kuti is also portrayed.”

SS19 “Genesis” – LOOK 5 (Jean Mark)

A post shared by HEAD OF STATE+ (@headofstate_) on

Now in its second year of operation, Head of State+’s visions as a brand is beginning to manifest into something that is much bigger than clothing. “I approach Head of State+ as less of a brand and more of a case study,” Taofeek told the CFDA. “It’s me digging into my cultural upbringing while trying to have a firm grasp and understanding of it.” In addition to his cultural advocacy, Taofeek is making a case for youth culture and providing the blueprint for how young designers can bypass the fashion industry’s hierarchy and establish a solid brand with minimal financial backing or formal training.

Source: https://www.teenvogue.com/story/taofeek-abijako-mens-nyfw-youngest-designer

Former President Barack Obama Visits Kenya to Help Sister Auma Obama Open Sports and Training Center in Kolego, their Father’s Birthplace

(AP Photo Brian Inganga)

by Tom Odula, AP via blackamericaweb.com

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Former U.S. President Barack Obama Monday praised Kenya’s president and opposition leader for working together but said this East African country must do more to end corruption.

Obama, on his first visit to Africa since stepping down as president, commended President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga for cooperating following last year’s disputed presidential election which were marked by violence.

“Despite some of the tumultuous times that seem to attend every election we now have a president and major opposition leader who have pledged to build bridges and have made specific commitments to work together,” said Obama, speaking in Kogelo in Siaya County, the rural birthplace of his late father.

Other challenges facing Kenya are tribalism and the need for better education, Obama said. Since visiting Kenya as senator in 2006 and then as president in 2015, Obama has passionately urged Kenya to tackle its endemic corruption and problems surrounding the divisions between this country’s ethnic groups. In 2006, he angered the government of President Mwai Kibaki when he gave a talk about corruption at the University of Nairobi. The government spokesman responded calling him “an inexperienced young man who could not teach Kenya how to manage its affairs.”

Obama went to Kogelo on Monday to launch a sports and training center founded by his half-sister, Auma Obama, through her foundation Sauti Kuu. Thousands of Kenyans turned up in his ancestral home of Kogelo to see Obama but many could not get into the venue due to high security.

“We wanted to appreciate Barack Obama for what he has done. In fact he has developed the community through giving iron sheets for people to build their houses,” said Boniface Rachula, a farmer from Kogelo who was turned away from the event.

Obama’s current visit to Kenya is low key, unlike his previous trips where he electrified thousands of Kenyans who lined the streets to see him. “It is a joy to be with so many people who are family to me and so many people who claim to be family to me. Everybody is a cousin,” Obama said in jest.

Later Monday he left for South Africa where he will deliver the annual Neslon Mandela lecture which this year will mark the late anti-apartheid icon’s 100th birthday.

Read more: https://blackamericaweb.com/2018/07/16/president-obama-heads-to-kenya-to-help-sister-open-center/

Ugandan Inventor Brian Gitta, 24, Wins Royal Academy of Engineering’s Prestigious Africa Prize for Bloodless Malaria Test

Brian Gitta, a 24-year-old Ugandan, became the youngest winner of the Africa Prize this week for developing a bloodless test for malaria. (Photo courtesy Royal Academy of Engineering/Twitter)

by Sara Shayanian via upi.com

June 14 (UPI) — A Ugandan inventor has won the Royal Academy of Engineering‘s prestigious Africa Prize for developing a method of testing for malaria without drawing blood.

Brian Gitta, 24, became the prize’s youngest winner Wednesday after he and his team developed Matibabu, or “medical center” in Swahili, the Royal Academy of Engineering said in a statement.

Gitta’s low-cost, reusable invention clips onto a patient’s finger and provides a result within 60 seconds on a mobile phone. A red beam shines through the user’s finger to detect changes in shape, color and concentration of red blood cells — all of which are affected by malaria.

“We are very proud of this year’s winner. It’s a perfect example of how engineering can unlock development — in this case by improving healthcare,” Africa Prize judge Rebecca Enonchong said. “Matibabu is simply a game-changer.”

Shafik Sekitto, a member of the Matibabu team, told BBC News Gitta came up with the idea for a bloodless test after it once took four normal blood tests for medics to diagnose him with malaria — the leading cause of death in Uganda. “[Gitta] brought up the idea: ‘Why can’t we find a new way of using the skills we have found in computer science, of diagnosing a disease without having to prick somebody?” Sekitto said.

Gitta won more than $33,000 as the first-place winner at a ceremony in Nairobi, Kenya, where Africa Prize judges and a live audience voted for the most promising engineering innovation. Three runners-up won more than $13,000 each. “We are incredibly honored to win the Africa Prize — it’s such a big achievement for us, because it means that we can better manage production in order to scale clinical trials and prove ourselves to regulators,” Gitta said.

“The recognition will help us open up partnership opportunities — which is what we need most at the moment.”

The award, founded by Britain’s Royal Academy of Engineering in 2014, is Africa’s biggest prize for engineering innovation.

Source: https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2018/06/14/Ugandan-inventor-wins-Africa-Prize-for-bloodless-malaria-test/9671528995279/

Ms Geek Africa Competition Rewards Women’s Brains Instead of their Beauty

Niger’s Salissou Hassane Latifa was crowned the 2018 Miss Geek Africa for her innovative new app that promises to help accident victims. (Courtesy of YouTube)

via theguardian.com

After years of women in evening gowns vying for the title of national beauty queen, glamour is giving way to geekery in Rwanda. A group of female tech entrepreneurs decided it was time to ditch Miss Rwanda for a different kind of competition, one that judged women on brilliance rather than beauty. It was time for Ms Geek.

The first Ms Geek Rwanda was crowned in 2014, and the competition has since expanded to include other African countries under the unifying banner of Ms Geek Africa. The event, open to girls and women aged 13 to 25, encourages contestants to use technology to solve everyday problems in their communities. The finalists receive business training and the winner is awarded financial backing to help realise her idea.

This year’s Ms Geek Africa is Salissou Hassane Latifa, 21, from Niger. Her winning design is the Saro app, which helps communication between people caring for accident victims and the emergency services, and allows medical staff to advise on basic first aid before they arrive at the scene.

“Ms Geek has already changed the perception of what girls can do,” says Esther Kunda of the Next Einstein Forum, a founding member of competition organiser Girls in ICT Rwanda.

Salissou Hassane Latifa, the latest Ms Geek Africa winner, has devised an app that promises to help accident victims. (Photograph Courtesy Kigali Today)

The contest was set up as part of a nationwide effort to transform Rwanda from a small agricultural economy into an engine of technological innovation, with women and girls at the forefront of the revolution.

The government has set a target of achieving gender parity in the information communications technology sector by 2020, an ambitious goal in a worldwide industry notorious for its lack of diversity. But through educational campaigns, scholarships and mentorship programmes, Rwanda is determined to become a global leader for women in ICT. “It’s a good place to be a woman in tech right now,” Kunda says of Rwanda.

Before the genocide of 1994, it was uncommon for women in Rwanda to own land, receive a formal education or hold jobs outside of the home. After the atrocity, the country’s surviving population was 60-70% female, according to contemporary accounts.

President Paul Kagame, who has led Rwanda with an iron fist since 2000, realised that advancing women was the only way forward and has championed their rights ever since.

Rwanda now leads the world in female representation in parliament, due in part to a quota system that reserves seats for women. Gender rights are enshrined in the national constitution and laws were changed to give women the right to inherit land and obtain credit.

As a child, Rosine Mwiseneza, who was orphaned during the genocide, recalls watching the women around her stepping into leadership roles in government and civil society. They became police officers, accountants, butchers, shop owners. Girls went to school and competed alongside boys for internships and scholarships.

Mwiseneza was studying business management at Kepler University in Kigali when she entered the Ms Geek contest in 2016. Her idea was for an automated irrigation system that would help farmers cultivate their fields year-round as opposed to just during the rainy season.

Mwiseneza says she was astounded when she won the competition. In that moment, she remembered her parents and all the hardships she had endured. “It was very difficult to believe,” she says. “I started thinking of everything that had passed before that day and I began to cry.”

To read more: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/may/28/brilliance-overtakes-beauty-ms-geek-africa-spotlights-tech-genius-salissou-hassane-latifa

African Immigrants More Educated than Most, Including Native-Born U.S. Citizens

Ifeozuwa Oyaniyi, 5, born in Nigeria, holds flags given to him by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services while waiting to receive his citizenship certificate in New York City. (John Moore/Getty Images)

by Ann M. Simmons via latimes.com

Lots of the news from sub-Saharan Africa is about war, famine, poverty or political upheaval. So it’s understandable if many Americans think most Africans who immigrate to the United States are poorly educated and desperate. That’s the impression that President Trump left with his comments to members of Congress opposing admission of immigrants from “s***hole countries” in Africa and elsewhere.

But research tells another story.

While many are refugees, large numbers are beneficiaries of the “diversity visa program” aimed at boosting immigration from underrepresented nations. And on average, African immigrants are better educated that people born in the U.S. or the immigrant population as a whole.

“It’s a population that’s very diverse in its educational, economic and English proficiency profile,” said Jeanne Batalova, a senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute think tank in Washington and co-author of a report last year on sub-Saharan African immigrants in the U.S. “People came for a variety of reasons and at various times.”

Overall, their numbers are small compared with other immigrant groups but have risen significantly in recent years. The U.S. immigrant population from sub-Saharan Africa (49 countries with a total population of more than 1.1 billion) grew from 723,000 to more than 1.7 million between 2010 and 2015, according to a new report by New American Economy, a Washington-based research and advocacy group. Still, they make up just half a percent of the U.S. population.

Drawing from U.S. surveys and Census Bureau data, the report found that the majority come from five countries: Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa.

The Pew Research Center reported that African immigrants are most likely to settle in the South or Northeast, and that the largest numbers — at least 100,000 — are found in Texas, New York, California, Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Virginia. Many African refugees have also relocated to or have been resettled in states such as Minnesota and South Dakota.

The Refugee Act of 1980 made it easier for people fleeing war zones to resettle in the U.S., and today there are tens of thousand of refugees from Somalia, Sudan and Congo. About 22% of African immigrants are refugees, according to Andrew Lim, associate director of research at New American Economy.

At the same time, the diversity visa program — also known as the visa lottery — has opened the door to immigrants from more peaceful places. Of the sub-Saharan immigrants who have become legal permanent residents, 17% came through the program, compared with 5% of the total U.S. immigrant population, according to Batalova.

Applicants to the program must have completed the equivalent of a U.S. high school education or have at least two years of recent experience in any number of occupations, including accountant, computer support specialist, orthodontist and dancer. As a result, the influx includes many immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa who are highly skilled professionals.

Continue reading “African Immigrants More Educated than Most, Including Native-Born U.S. Citizens”

All-Female Ethiopian Airlines Crew Makes Historic Flight to Nigeria

(Photo: girltalkhq.com)

by Frederick Ngugi via face2faceafrica.com

Ethiopian Airlines, the national flag carrier of Ethiopia made history on Saturday when it deployed an all-female crew for a special flight from Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria.

The historic airlift, which is the airline’s first flight to Nigeria in the hands of an all-female crew, has grabbed headlines across the world, with some people lauding it as a major milestone for the womenfolk.

Under the supervision of Captain Amsale Gualu and First Officer Tigist Kibret, the 13-member crew flew 391 passengers to the Nigerian capital on Boeing B777-300 ER, an exciting journey that took approximately four and a half hours.

Speaking at the reception party in Lagos, the chairperson of the Nigerian House Committee on Aviation Mrs. Nkiru Onyejeocha thanked Captain Gualu and the rest of her crew for the successful flight, saying it was enough proof that women can achieve great things when given the chance.

Onyejeocha added that the historic flight is an inspiration to Nigerian women to venture into the aviation sector and have the courage to hold key positions in the lucrative industry.

Speaking at the event, Captain Gualu, who called on women to have passion in what they do, said flying aeroplanes was her childhood dream. “Since I was a child, I wanted to be a pilot. After my University education, I joined Ethiopian Airlines as a first officer and flew the Fokker 50 and the Boeing B737 and then became a captain,” Captain Gualu was quoted by Nigerian news portal This Day.

Since the momentous flight on Saturday, many people have taken to social media to congratulate Ethiopian Airlines, which is the most profitable airline in Africa, for giving women an opportunity to prove their potential.

Some are even calling on other airlines, especially in countries and regions with a reputation of clamping down on women’s rights to follow suit.

To read more, go to: https://face2faceafrica.com/article/female-ethiopian-airline-crew-break-gender-barriers-historic-flight-nigeria

Nigeria’s Women’s Bobsled Team Qualifies for 2018 Olympics, Country’s 1st Ever Winter Olympians

Nigerian Women’s Bobsled Team (photo via nytimes.com)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to ESPN, Nigeria will be represented in the Winter Olympics by the African nation’s women’s bobsled team, which qualified for the 2018 Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. Driver Seun Adigun and breakpersons Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga completed the fifth out of the five required qualifying races and became the first African team ever to qualify in the bobsled category.

The squad, led by Adigun, a former African 100-meter hurdles champion and 2012 summer Olympian, completed the qualifying races in Utah and Canada on Tuesday and Wednesday. “This is a huge milestone for sports in Nigeria,” driver Adigun told ESPN. “Nothing makes me prouder than to know that I can play a small role in creating opportunities for winter sports to take place in Nigeria. Our objective now is to be the best representation of Africa that the Winter Olympics have ever witnessed.”

As blavity.com reported, it comes as a shock to many fans of the team and athletes individually, that they have been able to accomplish such a feat, considering they are in fact representing a warm climate country and the sport, for lack of better words, is designed for anything but that. In a recent interview with ABC News, shared to one of the women’s Instagram account, the ladies discuss how they do in fact host the majority of their training in the warm climate.

To read and learn more about this story, go to: http://www.newsweek.com/women-bobsled-team-first-nigeria-qualify-winter-olympics-713962 or http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-17/nigerias-bobsled-team-off-to-winter-olympics/9163162

Scholarship Fund Established for Children of U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson

Sgt. La David Johnson (Photo: Department of Defense)

by David J. Neal via miamiherald.com

The death of U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson of Miami Gardens, FL, one of four soldiers killed Oct. 4 by ambush in Niger, wasn’t just another tragedy involving a constituent to U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson. So, she and her 5,000 Role Models of Excellence program decided to do something for Johnson’s survivors.

Wilson knew Johnson, his parents, his two kids and wife Myeshia Johnson, who is pregnant with their third child. Johnson hadn’t just gone through the 5,000 Role Models of Excellence program Wilson founded in 1993, he’d been a leader among leaders. Johnson’s cousins went into the program also, saying they were followed his example. Wilson couldn’t help but recognize the numeric parallel of Johnson being killed at 25 early in the program’s 25th school year. “He was a true role model,” Wilson said of the young man known as Wheelie King for his bicycle tricks before he enrolled in the Army.

While part of an advisory group in Niger, Johnson didn’t make it out of an attack the Department of Defense blames on The Islamic State. ISIS increasingly teams up with fellow extremist Islamic group Boko Haram, the terrorists in Wilson’s prime international cause, the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in Nigeria. So, the 5,000 Role Models of Excllence program has established Role Model Army Sgt. La David Johnson Scholarship to ensure Johnson’s three children will have money for college.

A gofundme page has been set up for those who wish to contribute.

Source: Scholarship fund for kids of Sgt. La David Johnson, killed in Niger | Miami Herald

Sierra Leonean-American Dancer Michaela DePrince: ‘I Went From Being a War Orphan to a Ballerina’

Michaela DePrince photographed for “The Female Lead” by Brigitte Lacombe

by Michaela DePrince via positive.news

Sierra Leonean-American ballet dancer Michaela DePrince was orphaned at the age of three. Born Mabinty Bangura to a Muslim family, she was sent to an orphanage where the ‘aunties’ who cared for the children believed that her skin condition, vitiligo, was a curse and called her the ‘devil’s child’. In 1999, DePrince was adopted by a US couple. Inspired by a picture of a ballerina she saw on a magazine in Sierra Leone, DePrince trained as a ballet dancer, winning a scholarship for the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at the American Ballet Theatre. In 2013, she joined the Dutch National Ballet. Her story features in a book called The Female Lead.

My uncle took me to the orphanage after my father was shot and my mother starved to death. He knew he’d never be able to get a bride price for me, because of my vitiligo. There were 27 children in the orphanage and we were numbered. Number 1 got the biggest portion of food and the best choice of clothes. Number 27 got the smallest portion of food and the leftover clothes. The aunties thought I was unlucky and evil because of my vitiligo. I was number 27. I was always dirty. They used to braid my hair too tightly because they wanted me to be in pain and they told me I’d never be adopted.

The only moments I was happy were because of my friend, who was also called Mabinty. We slept on the same mat and she used to sing to me and tell me stories when I couldn’t sleep. She was number 26. I thought nothing good would ever happen to me and then, one day, I found a magazine outside the gate of the orphanage. On the cover was a picture of a ballerina in a tutu. I thought she was a fairy on her tippy toes in her beautiful pink costume. But what struck me most was that she looked so happy. I hadn’t been happy in a long time. I ripped off the picture and hid it in my underwear.

We had a teacher who came to give us English lessons and I showed it to her. She explained to me that the girl was a dancer. I was walking with this teacher one day when some rebels came towards us. A boy was following them and another truck full of them around the corner. They had been drinking, I think. They saw Teacher Sarah was pregnant and started betting whether she was having a girl or a boy. So then they thought they’d find out and they got their machetes and cut her open. Her baby was a girl. They killed her and my teacher in front of me. The small boy thought he should imitate the older ones and he cut my stomach.

Later, the rebels occupied the orphanage and threw us out. We walked across the border to Guinea. There were plans for most of us to be adopted, but not me. Finally, there was a plane to Ghana. I was miserable because I thought I would never see my best friend, number 26, again. Then a lady with blonde hair, which seemed amazing to me, and wearing bright red shoes grabbed my hand and my friend’s hand too, and said: ‘I’m your new momma.’ Number 26 became my sister Mia.

My parents made me see that it is OK to be different and to stand out. When we got to the hotel, I started looking through my momma’s luggage for my tutu and pointe shoes. I thought all Americans were doctors, models or ballerinas and she would have brought my clothes with her. I didn’t speak English so the only way I could explain was to take the picture out of my underwear and show her. She understood straight away. She said I could dance if I wanted to.

When we got to America, I started going to ballet class once a week, then twice a week. I found a video of The Nutcracker and I must have watched it 150 times. I begged my mother to take me to a performance and I knew it so well that I could tell when they went wrong. By the time I was ten I was going to ballet classes five times a week.

I worried that my vitiligo would be a problem but my skin turned out to be an issue in a different way. A lot of people are still very traditional in their views and they want to see the same thing in the corps de ballet – white skinny dancers. Early on, my mother was told by one of my ballet teachers, ‘We don’t put a lot of effort into the black girls. They all end up getting fat, with big boobs.’ I have strengths as a dancer. I am muscular and I have strong legs. More importantly, I work very hard.

To read full article, go to: ‘I went from being a war orphan to a ballerina’