Tag: Senegal

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”

FEATURE: African Ancestry Co-Founder and University of Arizona Professor Rick Kittles Breaks New Ground in Genetics

Rick Kittles
UA researcher Rick Kittles is a national leader on health disparities and the role of genes and environment in disease. (Photo: Bob Demers/UANews)

article by Nick Prevenas via uanews.arizona.edu

Ever since he can remember, Rick Kittles always wanted to know where he came from.

Born in Sylvania, Georgia, and raised near Long Island, New York, a great deal of his academic interest was sparked by the desire to trace his ancestral lineage as far back as it could go. This proved to be exceedingly difficult, for a number of reasons.

“There simply wasn’t a strong database in place or any kind of access to information on African genetics,” Kittles said. “Records were either inaccurate or nonexistent, so there were a number of hurdles in place for African-Americans to try to figure out their ancestry.”

An aptitude for biology, coupled with a deep exploration of Alex Haley’s novel, “Roots,” led Kittles on a path that eventually would help thousands of people like him clear these hurdles. He is the director of the Division of Population Genetics at the University of Arizona, which he joined in July 2014.

Developing and implementing a comprehensive African genealogy database seemed daunting at first, but during his graduate studies at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences and, later, though his work at Howard University’s College of Medicine in the late 1990s, Kittles met the historians, archaeologists, anthropologists and fellow geneticists who could help turn this dream into a reality.

“I was looking at my own DNA profile, analyzing my Y-chromosome lineage, and I noticed my Nigerian lineage didn’t track with the other Y-chromosome samples from West Africa,” Kittles said.

Continue reading “FEATURE: African Ancestry Co-Founder and University of Arizona Professor Rick Kittles Breaks New Ground in Genetics”

African Nations Celebrate a 55 Percent Drop in Child Mortality Rates Due to Immunization

(photo via venturesafrica.com)
(photo via venturesafrica.com)

article by Cynthia Okoroafor via venturesafrica.com

As the Ministerial Conference on Immunisation in Africa commences today in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, vaccine experts and officials representing 26 African countries from the ‘meningitis belt’ celebrate the introduction of MenAfriVac® and its achievements in the continent’s public health system. In five years, MenAfriVac, which is designed, developed and produced for use in Africa, has nearly eliminated serogroup A meningococcal disease from the meningitis belt countries and is now being integrated into routine national immunisation programs.

Since the vaccine was first introduced in Burkina Faso back in 2010, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that 16 of the 26 countries in the African meningitis belt, between Senegal and Ethiopia, have conducted initial mass vaccination campaigns to protect their citizens. As a result of this, more than 235 million children and young adults, between the ages of 1 and 29 years old, have been immunised, eliminating meningitis A disease in those areas.

Manuel Fontaine, the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund’s (UNICEF) Regional Director for West and Central Africa stated that “It’s clear that the rollout of the meningitis A vaccine has been a great success story in sub-Saharan Africa. At UNICEF, we’ll continue to work with national authorities, health workers and traditional and religious leaders so that vaccines remain well accepted and reach every community across the meningitis belt.”

The officials at the conference thereby plan a transition from mass campaigns to vaccine use in childhood immunisation programs to prevent the resurgence of deadly epidemics. Cases of meningitis A reduced from over 250,000 during an outbreak in 1996 to just 80 confirmed cases in 2015 and those were in countries that had not yet conducted mass immunisation campaigns.

Speaking ahead of the conference yesterday, Prof. Awa Marie Coll-Seck, the Minister of Health and Social Services of Senegal, encouraged African countries to reflect on the common goals and aspirations made in 2012 regarding achieving Universal Access to Immunisation by 2020 and improving healthcare for children.

“Thanks to immunisations, there has been a 55 percent reduction in child deaths in the past 25 years…Vaccines are a cost-effective proven investment that spur national development. Studies show that every dollar spent on immunization programs can provide economic returns up to sixteen times for a given country. Treating vaccine-preventable diseases places an enormous strain on public health systems by redirecting limited human and economic resources towards treatment instead of prevention.” 

Furthermore, she stated it is essential to prioritise health for every child in every part of Africa to support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. According to her, the Ministerial Conference on Immunization in Africa represents a key moment for African nations to catalyse support and accountability to ensure that universal immunization is made a reality.

To read full article, go to: http://venturesafrica.com/how-a-vaccine-is-improving-the-african-childs-health/

 

Akon Lighting Africa To Train Future Tech Professionals at New “Solar Academy” in Mali to Help Provide Electricity to 600 Million in Africa

Akon at the second United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Forum (SE4A) on May 21, 2015.  [Photo via akonlightingafrica.com)

As the second United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Forum (SE4A) paid tribute in its closing session to the progress generated by the Akon Lighting Africa initiative launched in February 2014, its founders Akon, Thione Niang and Samba Bathily were already looking to the future and next steps. They have just announced the creation of a “Solar Academy” to develop skills and expertise in this field in Africa. This professional training center of excellence is a first on the continent and targets future African entrepreneurs, engineers and technicians. It will open its doors this summer in Bamako, Mali and welcome any Africans wanting to help develop the use of solar power.This project is being introduced under the patronage of Solektra international, a partner of Akon Lighting Africa, in collaboration some European experts who will supply training equipment and programs.  It aims to reinforce expertise in every aspect of installing and maintaining solar-powered electric systems and micro-grids in particular, which are really taking off in rural Africa.  With its 320 days sunshine a year, the continent is perfectly suited to the development of solar power, particularly since 622 million Africans still do not have access to electricity.

We have the sun and innovative technologies to bring electricity to homes and communities.  We now need to consolidate African expertise and that is our objective” explained Samba Bathily at the SE4All. “We are doing more than just investing in clean energy.  We are investing in human capital.  We can achieve great milestones and accelerate the African transformation process on condition that we start training a new generation of highly qualified African engineers, technicians and entrepreneurs now” he added.

With 70% of the population aged under 35, Africa is the continent with the youngest population today.  One of the biggest challenges it faces is training and creating sustainable employment.  “We expect the Africans who graduate from this center to devise new, innovative, technical solutions. With this Academy, we can capitalize on Akon Lighting Africa and go further,” Thione Niang said.  Indeed, Akon Lighting Africa adopted a sustainable business model from the outset – providing training and creating jobs enabling local populations to embrace technical solutions and become self-sufficient.  The Solar Academy will help to extend this business model and promote inclusive growth throughout Africa.

article via akonlightingafrica.com

ARCHITECTURE: The Forgotten Masterpieces of African Modernism

La Pyramide, Abidjan, Ivory Coast
La Pyramide, Abidjan, Ivory Coast. (Photograph: Iwan Baan)

field of triangular roofs pokes up above the horizon on the outskirts of Dakar, like a forest of wigwams that have been baked to stone under the scorching sub-Saharan sun. They sit on a triangular concrete plinth, from which bigger triangular pavilions protrude, accessed by flights of triangular steps from the dusty streets, along which triangular gutters jut out. It could be Toblerone Town, a city-sized hymn to the three-sided prism.

This mysterious complex, which looks like what might have happened if the Mayans had discovered reinforced concrete, is the Foire Internationale de Dakar, or FIDAK for short. It is a sprawling exhibition centre built in the capital of Senegal in 1975 to host the country’s biennial international trade fair – and trumpet the new nationstate’s presence on the global stage. Designed by little-known French architects Jean-François Lamoureux and Jean-Louis Marin, it is a project of obsessive and extraordinary detail. There are facades decorated with coloured pebbles and tiled mosaics, psychedelic sand art murals that evoke the rocky African coastline and its azure seas. Yet outside Senegal, this building is almost entirely unknown.

It is just one of the astounding projects documented by Swiss architect Manuel Herz, who has spent the last few years researching the architecture of African independence with his team at ETH University in Zurich. A period of bold structures and strident new forms, it is strangely absent from the recorded history of modern architecture. “There was an intense flowering of experimental and futuristic architecture in the 1960s and 70s, which the young African countries used to express their national identities,” says Herz, who has curated an exhibition of more than 80 buildings from sub-Saharan Africa, showing at the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany, until May. “But we simply don’t know about it. When people think of Africa, they think of poverty, misery and violence, while architects fetishise informality and focus on slum-upgrading. But we wanted to show this incredible cultural wealth that also exists.”

University of Zambia, Lusaka, Zambia
University of Zambia, Lusaka. (Photograph: Iwan Baan)

The buildings, a number of which have been beautifully shot by Dutch photographer Iwan Baan, portray a period of extreme confidence and political ambition. They are mostly the products of big, state-sponsored initiatives, from heroic parliament buildings and imposing central banks to daring universities and vast stadiums, many the pet projects of Africa’s “big man” leaders, built for propaganda purposes as much as anything else.

The Kenyatta International Conference Centre, whose pink cylindrical shaft towers above Nairobi, was initiated by the country’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, as a lavish new HQ for his ruling Kanu party. At 32 stories, it was by far the tallest structure in east Africa until the 1990s, a big column for Kenya’s big-man chieftain. Yet its great size can be credited to an accident of international intervention. In the midst of its design, the World Bank decided it would host its 1973 annual meeting in Nairobi, and the building was chosen as the venue, forcing a growth spurt. The tower almost tripled in height, while a magnificent auditorium shaped like a closed lily-bud was also added, and mirrored by an open flower form at the top of the tower containing a revolving restaurant.

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Nigeria and Senegal Declared Free of Ebola Virus by World Health Organization

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 11.03.30 PMNigeria has been declared officially free of Ebola after six weeks with no new cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.  WHO representative Rui Gama Vaz, speaking in the capital Abuja, said it was a “spectacular success story”.

Nigeria won praise for its swift response after a Liberian diplomat brought the disease there in July.  The outbreak has killed more than 4,500 people in West Africa, mostly in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.

An estimated 70% of those infected have died in those countries.  The WHO officially declared Senegal Ebola-free on Friday.

Meanwhile, European Union foreign ministers are meeting in Luxembourg to discuss how to strengthen their response to the threat posed by Ebola.

Speaking on the sidelines, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he expected the meeting to appoint a co-ordinator to galvanize the EU’s response to the epidemic.

“My colleagues are unanimous in saying that this idea of a European co-ordinator for the fight against Ebola is a good idea. The name will be chosen in the coming days. I think it’s a very important step.”

European countries have committed more than 500m euros (£400m; $600m) but the UK is pressing to double that amount.

The money is being sought to help reinforce over-stretched healthcare systems in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea and to mitigate the damage Ebola is doing to their economies.

Earlier, the Spanish government said a nurse who became the first person to contract Ebola outside West Africa had tested negative for the virus.

article via bbc.com

Singer Akon Aims to Bring Electricity to 1 Million Homes in Africa Through “Akon Lighting Africa” Initiative

Singer Akon. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Singer Akon has launched an ambitious endeavor that aims to improve the lives of over one million people in Africa.  His new initiative, “Akon Lighting Africa”, hopes to bring electricity to one million households by the end of 2014 to help promote energy sustainability and sufficiency throughout the continent.  “The lack of electricity is currently a major problem in Africa,” reads the website for the campaign. “A significant number of households in rural areas and even urban cities do not have access to electricity. This is a real obstacle to Africa’s Sustainable Development.”

Akon, who is Senegalese-American, has partnered with local charities and corporations to aid in the efforts of the campaign by addressing Africa’s energy issue and installing solar equipment in households.  The “Right Now” singer will travel and meet with leaders in nine countries in nine days to discuss the project including Senegal, Mali, Guinea Conakry, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo and the Ivory Coast.

Learn more about Akon Lighting Africa here.

article by Lilly Workneh via thegrio.com

Fantasy Hollywood: Restaging Classic Films with Black Models

Black Hollywood Breakfast
Breakfast at Onomo’s, 2013. Photograph: Antoine Tempé

Back in the 80s, my classmates and I piled into Mbabane’s local cinema to watch Top Gun. We’d turn to each other, channeling our best version of Val Kilmer to spout “You can be my wing man anytime” – followed by intense laughter. Who doesn’t have a favourite line, an iconic moment from film lodged in our minds? 

Dakar-based photographers Omar Victor Diop and Antoine Tempé were counting on just that, the shared experience and ubiquity of film, when the hotel group Onomo International invited them to create a series of photographs using the hotel as a backdrop. They turned to the silver screen, to iconic moments they’ve held onto to and mined for their collaborative project, ONOMOllywood.

In 20 images that pay homage to characters such as Truman Capote’s Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, these reinventions begin with the a humble “what if…” A question looking to how popular global cultural translates to the local, what could it look like, and what new memories would it create. The project has created conversation, accolades and blowback, but in an interview with Another Africa, Diop takes it all in stride.

Black Hollywood American Beauty
American Beauty, 2013. Photograph: Omar Victor Diop

Missla Libsekal | Representational art usually puts artists in the hot seat, audiences tend to have strong opinions. For example Samuel Fosso’s self-portraits as famous political figures or Pieter Hugo’s Nollywood series. Mimicry steps on the nerve of nostalgia, the sacred or even challenges the status quo. What tale doesONOMOllywood tell and does it hit any nerves? 

Omar Victor Diop | ONOMOllywood is a celebration of cinema, as an artistic discipline and of the magic of a great movie. For Antoine Tempé (the co-author of the series who created 10 out of the 20 images) and myself, what makes a great movie is the fact that the strength of its characters, plot and scenes transcends all geographic, temporal and racial barriers. A great movie is more than a series of sequences, it becomes a moment that is lived across the globe by people who have very little in common, but who relate to extraordinary stories that allow them to dream.

The example I always give is the magic of a James Bond movie; back when I was a kid, I didn’t care whether Roger Moore was white or black, or whether I was a British citizen… to me, he was a hero I could impersonate. After watching A View To A Kill, I firmly believed my pajamas were a tuxedo and that my mom’s kitchen was actually some concrete jungle where I would chase after criminals… That’s what cinema has brought to me and it still somehow does, to my adult life. A great movie is a dream.

Black Hollywood Psycho
Psycho, 2013. Photograph: Antoine Tempé

ONOMOllywood did hit some nerves, especially in the US: after one of my interviews was published on CNN.COM. We were taken aback by the racial dimension of some readers’ comment. To my great surprise, I realised that this series could be seen by some as a sort of “revenge” of black people against a too “white” Hollywood. The “race war” in the comments section was quite epic! 

It was rather amusing to see the way some readers resolutely eluded the fact that this project is the product of a collaboration between a French-American photographer and a Senegalese photographer. It was “just some black dude painting Hollywood in black because the world looked better like this”.

I guess this can be explained by a set of contextual factors. The article about ONOMOllywood was published in late July 2013, after a heated debate over a series of race-related affairs like the Trayvon Martin case in the US, a series of blackface incidents in fashion magazines in Europe, etc. I guess people from both sides were already prepared to shoot at anything that could be seen as an attempt to see the world from a racial perspective… Interesting experience indeed, we’re glad this project started a conversation in other continents, that’s the purpose of art, even though for us, ONOMOllywood remains a celebration, a well deserved homage to geniuses of cinema, to timeless moments.

Black Hollywood Frida
Frida, 2013. Photograph: Omar Victor Diop

Continue reading “Fantasy Hollywood: Restaging Classic Films with Black Models”

Karamba Diaby Elected To German Parliament, Becomes 1st Black Member

karamba-diaby-16x9

Karamba Diaby, a Senegal-born chemist, has become Germany’s first black federal lawmaker, and a woman of Turkish origin has become the first Muslim elected to Parliament from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative party, officials said Monday.

Until now there were no black lawmakers in Parliament, despite more than 500,000 people of recent African origin believed to be living in Germany.  “My election into the German Parliament is of historical importance,” said Karamba Diaby, 51, who moved to the city of Halle in 1986 after receiving a scholarship to study in communist East Germany.

Diaby, who gained German citizenship in 2001, said his priority would be to promote equal opportunities in education. “Every child born in Germany should have the chance to be successful in school regardless of their social background or the income of their parents,” he said.

RELATED POST: Senegal Native Karamba Diaby Poised to Become 1st Black Member of German Parliament

article by Yesha Callahan via clutchmagonline.com

Senegal Names 2nd Female Prime Minister, Human Rights Activist Aminata Touré

Feminist and human rights activist Aminata Touré is making history in Senegal.  According to reports, the 51-year-old former justice minister was named Prime Minister last Sunday, only the second woman in the country’s history. (Mame Madior Boye served between 2001 and 2002)

Known as Senegal’s Iron Lady, Touré named her cabinet, which includes four other women, just one day of the announcement.

Ms. Touré earned much respect in Senegal in her role as justice minister. It was during her tenure that the judicial process against former Chad dictator Hissène Habré saw great progress, leading up to his arrest in Senegal earlier this year. Also under her leadership, the fight against corruption and illegally-acquired wealth was intensified, seeing millions of francs held by corrupt officials in foreign banks repatriated.

As for her plans in office? Touré says she will “speed up the pace of our public development programs and reforms to enable every person in Senegal to feel the change in their daily livelihood.”

The new Prime Minster holds a Masters in economics and a PhD in international financial management.

article by Myeisha Essex via blackamericaweb.com