Africa Tech Week 2022: driving economic growth in Africa

Staff Writer, Bizcommunity.com

particle earth with technology network circle over the photo blurred of cityscape background, technology and innovation concept
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With African innovation igniting a technology boom, trailblazers from across the continent will gather in Cape Town, South Africa, on 31 August and 1 September 2022 for another edition of Africa Tech Week, sponsored by Sentech – the continent’s sought-after technology conference, exhibition, and awards ceremony focused on promoting the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) in Africa.
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Taking place both virtually and at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC), this year’s event focuses on ‘Bringing Tech Closer to Africa’ and will convene an array of industry leaders, and tech-entrepreneurs, decision-makers, and tech ecosystem players from across the continent.

Together, they will unpack the various challenges, scenarios, and mind-blowing economic opportunities 4IR can deliver for organisations looking to adopt the next wave of cutting-edge technology.

Delegates can expect two days of expert panel discussions, keynote addresses, case studies, live-demo experiences, and networking with leaders in the private sector, government, civil society, investors, and academia – all with their unique insights into the different ways artificial intelligence (AI), cryptocurrency, and the Internet of Things (IoT) will affect the future of Africa’s development. This includes breakaways and focus sessions with world-leading authorities on the 4IR’s effects on individual industry sectors, specific fields of production, and different areas of commerce.

Says Ralf Fletcher, CEO of Africa Tech Week: “It is with great excitement that we announce this year’s programme. With innovation advancing at an exponential rate, now is the time to capacitate African businesses – big and small – with the learnings, strategies, and connections they need to spur their development through the 4IR. It’s time for Africa to take a leading role in shaping the disruptive world of technology and harness it in a way that drives progressive and inclusive change.”

Africa Tech Week 2022 will culminate in an awards ceremony which aims to celebrate and reward companies on the African continent that have demonstrated excellence in the areas of innovative product development. Categories include: Innovation of The Year Award; Technology Company Of The Year; CEO of The Year; Leader of the Year; Women In Tech Award; Best Technology Start-Up; Fintech Award, AI Technology Award and Digital Transformation Award.

Commenting on the importance of this year’s event, Mlamli Booi, CEO of Sentech, says: “The digital world is transforming at an unprecedented rate. Ensuring that Africa remains ahead of the curve requires a multi-layered platform of cooperation between companies, government and civil society – and Africa Tech Week provides a unique opportunity for exactly this sort of dialogue to take place.”

With only 300 in-person passes available to the public, interested attendees are encouraged to secure their spot by going to Africa Tech Week

NASA details plans to bring back Mars rock samples

By AFP

This photo provided by NASA shows a rock collected by the Perseverance rover on Mars. /NASA-AP

NASA plans to bring 30 Martian rock samples back to Earth in 2033, the agency said Wednesday and is sending two small helicopters to help the mission.

The Perseverance rover, which landed on Mars in February 2021, has so far collected 11 samples as part of its hunt for signatures of ancient life.

But bringing them back for detailed lab study on Earth is proving to be a highly complex task.

Up until now, NASA was planning on sending another rover to Mars to pick up the samples from Perseverance and then bring them to a robotic lander equipped with its own rocket, called the Mars Ascent Vehicle.

This in turn would fire the samples into orbit where they would be collected by a European spaceship.

Now, however, the second “Sample Fetch Rover” has been scrapped and Perseverance itself will deliver the precious cargo directly to the lander, which will use a robot arm to extract it.

But since NASA always plans for contingencies, it has a backup plan in case Perseverance becomes immobilized.

The lander, which should launch from Earth in 2028 and land on Mars in mid-2030, will also carry two mini helicopters.

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. /NASA-AP

Perseverance brought with it its own helicopter, called Ingenuity, which carried out the first powered flight on another world, and has now made a total of 29 sorties.

The two new helicopters will be a little heavier, equipped with wheels to be able to move on the ground as well and come with a small arm allowing them to recover the samples.

In this scenario, Perseverance would first drop the samples on the ground, the helicopters would pick them up, then place them next to the ascent vehicle.

The orbiter would be set to return to Earth in the Utah desert in 2033.

Cape Town hospital uses robot at forefront of surgery in Africa

Reuters

South African surgeons Dr Tim Forgan and Dr Imraan Mia use a robot called DaVinci to perform delicate operations at the Tygerberg hospital in Cape Town, South Africa, July 15, 2022. REUTERS/Shelley Christians

A surgical team led by Dr Tim Forgan uses the da Vinci Xi robot to assist in removing a cancerous rectal tumour from a female patient at Tygerberg public hospital in Cape Town, South Africa.

The robot, which has four ‘arms’ and is controlled in real time by Forgan via an immersive 3D consul, is the most advanced surgical robot in Africa. It is one of only two such robots in use on the continent, both of them found in South African public hospitals in Cape Town.

The platform is currently used mainly for complex urological, gynaecological and colorectal surgeries at these hospitals.

The first operation using the newly-acquired robot was performed at Tygerberg hospital in February, with dozens more successfully completed since then.

Autonomous boats and robot battles: Young engineers face off at Egypt robotics contest

By CGTN Africa

The third and final day of the 13th Arab Robotics Championship in the coastal Egyptian city of Sharm El Sheikh saw several first-time contestants rise to the winners’ podium. The four-day competition, which concluded Monday, was aimed at encouraging young people to engage with advanced tech in hopes of boosting the region’s robotics and engineering sectors.

Despite the dire conditions in his home country of Libya, Khaled Al Warfeli and his team managed to find a local sponsor to support their trip to join the competition in Egypt. Concerned about biodiversity in the region, the team created a robotic boat that can help clean lakes.

The Libyan team’s design is equipped with cameras and GPS systems to locate waste at the bottom of lakes and uses robotic arms to pick it up.

“The judges liked our prototype, not only because it overcomes an environmental challenge, but also because it is ready for immediate production. Made out of simple components, it can be easily assembled and programmed for mass implementation,” Al Warfeli told CGTN.

The Libyan project won first place in the innovation category of the competition.

Abdallah Mohamed from Egypt was another first-time participant. His design clinched the win in the contest’s “Follow the Line” category. It’s a challenge where robots must follow a line from beginning to end in a field full of obstacles. The challenge is to program robots to figure out how to find their way around the obstacles and finish the course in the shortest time.

“This is one of the most competitive disciplines in the championship, Mohamed said. “Every participating country holds a domestic competition in Follow the Line. The winning teams come here to challenge each other. We had to study electronics and review robots designed for previous editions, in order to ensure ours could fully operate autonomously.”

The access the championship gives to its archives aims to build up an accumulative body of knowledge for the region’s young engineers to learn from. This way, students participating get empowered to introduce more advanced technologies than those used in previous editions of the contest.

In the ‘Collect the Ball’ category, competitors control robots racing to pick up a ball and score it in an opponent’s goal. The challenge requires speed, precise control over the robot and skill to hold the ball while keeping the opposing robot from snatching it back.

The winners in that challenge came from Qatar. They say that, while battling it out for control of the ball is fun and exciting, these robots can also be used for practical, real-world applications.

Team member and first-time participant Hussein Alnaema said, “It’s a game but, using the same concept, we can build robots to pick up litter from cities and collect them at designated locations, thus saving a lot of manpower in cleaning the streets.”

Hussein’s teacher, Abdullah Al Musleh said that the experience his student gained during the journey from creating an idea to winning the competition was remarkable.

“Our school has been competing in the robotics championships for seven years. Robotic technology is a fast-growing field. So every year the requirements for the competition are completely different from the one before. The innovations are inspiring. The number of countries and participants continue to grow,” he added.

The Arab Robotics Championship was established in 2008. It focuses on school and university students, aiming to create a regional foundation for advanced technologies and smart solutions. 

2.9 billion people remain offline, accelerating build-up of digital infrastructure seen as a solution

By Halligan Agade

Data from the International Telecommunication Union, the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs) shows that while internet use surged in 2020, reaching 4.9 billion users worldwide, some 2.9 billion people – or 37 percent of the world’s population – still remain unconnected and in growing danger of being left behind.

The 2022 World Telecommunication Development Conference, held in Kigali, Rwanda addressed the issue and drafted a globally agreed Declaration and Action Plan that will hopefully reduce that digital divide. CGTN’s Uche Okoronkwo spoke to the International Telecommunications Union Regional Director for Africa earlier about the negotiations and collaborations taking place at this year’s event.  

Uganda to launch first satellite in September

By XINHUA

Uganda will launch its first-ever satellite into the low Earth orbit from the International Space Station this September, a senior official said.

Matia Kasaija, the minister of finance, planning and economic development, said on Tuesday that the launch will be in collaboration with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Kasaija said a ground station at Mpoma in the central Ugandan district of Mukono will receive data from the satellite dubbed PearlAfricaSat-1.

“The data from this satellite will be used for meteorology, environmental monitoring, urban planning, mineral exploration, and disaster management, among others,” the minister said.

Cameroon NGO Creates App to Track Endangered Marine Species

In Cameroon nearly 150 manatees, an endangered aquatic species also known as sea cow, are killed each year by poachers or fisherman, often unintended by the latter. An aid group has created a mobile app to collect data to help reduce manatee deaths. Anne Nzouankeu reports from lake Ossa, Cameroon.

Source: VOA

Ugandan Researchers Develop Low-Cost Sensors to Track Air Pollution

Reuters

Joel Ssematimba, a hardware developer at a low-cost air quality monitoring dubbed AirQo, works on air quality monitoring devices inside a workshop at the Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, May 27, 2022.

KAMPALA — Ugandan researchers have developed low-cost air quality monitoring sensors that work in extreme conditions and will allow Uganda to switch from expensive imported monitors in its bid to tackle rising air pollution.

Kampala, Uganda’s capital home to two million people, ranks among the world’s most polluted cities, with pollution levels up to seven times higher than the World Health Organization’s safe standards, according to the 2021 World Air Quality Report.

Engineer Bainomugisha, who leads the research at Makerere University in Kampala, said the team had been motivated by the growing death toll caused by air pollution around the world.

Pollution remains the world’s largest environmental threat to human health, and in 2017 was responsible for 15% of all deaths globally, according to a report by the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP).

“That (number of deaths caused by pollution) was really an eye opener… to come in with technology solutions and how we could contribute to improving air quality,” Bainomugisha said.

Around 28,000 people per year die as a result of air pollution in Uganda, according to GAHP.

The AirQo air quality monitoring project, which is partly funded by Google, relies on a network of sensors, which cost $150 a piece, to gather air quality data around Kampala.

Using artificial intelligence technology and machine learning, this data is then processed before it is uploaded onto a cloud-based service accessible to consumers and the public via a smart phone application.

Kampala, where major sources of pollution include dust from unpaved roads, wood fuel use, vehicle and industrial emissions and open burning of solid waste, previously relied on air quality monitors mostly imported from the United States at about $30,000 a piece.

The equipment, which required expensive maintenance, broke down frequently because they were not designed specifically for the local environment, city officials say.

Bainomugisha said AirQo’s monitoring devices are installed around the city including in schools, residential areas, and on motorbike taxis.

Designed to withstand conditions including extreme heat and dust, the devices are powered both by electricity from the grid and solar power to allow them to operate when power supplies are interrupted, he said.

Zimbabwe president urges emphasis on science and technology education to boost global digital economy

By Jerry Omondi

FILE PHOTO: Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Developing countries should place more emphasis on science and technology education to better prepare the young generation for opportunities in the digital economy, according to Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mnangagwa made the comments in Davos, Switzerland, where he is attending the 2022 World Economic Forum.

“The future of business, of development, wealth creation, now depends on the digital economy,” he said.

“It is important that in particular the developing countries like ourselves in Africa and possibly Latin America and some parts of Asia, we have to put more focus now in our institutions of higher learning – our universities – to focus and promote science and technology in our schools, so that the younger generation should embrace science and technology in order to be relevant in the digital economy of the future.”

Mnangagwa’s comments came as the Digital Cooperation Organization (DCO) and the World Economic Forum (WEF) announced a new initiative to boost flows of digital foreign direct investments globally.

The agreement will see the DCO and WEF work together to identify methods to increase digital adoption, investment in new digital activities, and investment in digital infrastructure.

In his address, the Zimbabwean Head of State all countries ought to embrace a digital economy for the future.

He pointed out that his administration is attempting to embrace the digital economy, and he urged others to do the same.

“We are attempting to embrace e-government, e-commerce, e-education, e-construction. Everything is now digital,” he said.

The 2022 WEF meeting is the first in-person meeting since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is set to run until May 26.

Happening under the theme of History at a Turning Point: Government Policies and Business Strategies, the meeting will have 200 sessions attended by more than 2,500 leaders and experts.

Ethio-Telecom partners with Huawei to launch pilot 5G services in Ethiopia

By XINHUA

Map of Ethiopia

Ethiopia’s state-owned Ethio-Telecom on Monday evening launched a pre-commercial 5G services trial in the capital Addis Ababa in partnership with Chinese telecom giant Huawei.

Ethiopia’s first 5G services, which was launched across six mobile stations in Addis Ababa, is said to be part of the Ethiopian government’s digital transformation aspirations.

“We are pleased and honored to launch the world’s advanced fifth-generation network. We are committed to seeing a digital Ethiopia, which will uplift our people’s overall living conditions,” Frehiwot Tamiru, CEO of Ethio-Telecom, said during the launching event.

Tamiru said the 5G network service, characterized by the fastest speed and low latency and massive communication capability that offers service for up to 1 million connections within 1 square km, can unlock blazing fast speeds in more places, real-time responses and massive connectivity.

Tamiru noted that Ethio-Telecom will expand its pre-commercial trial service across the capital and regional cities, reaching up to 150 sites over the coming 12 months.

With high speeds, superior reliability and negligible latency, 5G will impact industries such as critical services requiring real-time decisions, manufacturing plants, remote healthcare, precision agriculture, as well as facilitate the Internet of Things (IoT), said Tamiru.

“This 5G service will provide our customers with best-in-class solutions, improve their experience and allow our enterprise customers to boost productivity, enhance operational efficiency, and introduce new solutions to their customers,” Tamiru said.

Ethio-Telecom, which is the sole telecom services provider in Ethiopia so far, said the pre-commercial trial of the 5G service was launched after a temporary 5G Spectrum approval by the Ethiopian Communication Authority while its strategic partner Huawei technologies deployed the 5G network.

Hou Wei, Vice President of Huawei Northern Africa, said as one of Ethio-Telecom’s strategic partners, Huawei will keep focusing on cooperating with Ethiopia’s state-owned telecom service provider through the provision of state-of-the-art solutions, reliable delivery, fast response and trustable maintenance.

“Huawei has been devoting (itself) to this market for more than 20 years, and we have observed the fast development and great evolution of the telecom industry in this country,” he said.

Ethio-Telecom said the full commercialization of the 5G service is dependent on the readiness and demand from the players in the ecosystem, which includes customers’ readiness to use the service as well as the availability of 5G-enabled devices and smartphones.

The company, which is recognized as one of Africa’s oldest telecom service providers, has more than 60.8 million subscribers, with about 25 million data and Internet users.

As part of its ambition to provide modern telecom service to its users, the company partners with Chinese tech companies, mainly Huawei and ZTE.

The company said it has already expanded 3G and 4G networks throughout the East African nation effectively, achieving 97 percent telecom services coverage while densifying the network and upgrading the earlier technologies to the latest ones.