5 Reasons Africa May Be A Future Leader in Science and Technology
Despite the widespread struggle with governmental stability, Africa continues to make big contributions to global science and technology. Literacy and higher education development seem to be at the forefront of problems in Africa, but there are many positive developments as well which foretell an optimistic future for African scientific and technological development. Here are 5 reasons Africa may be a future leader in science and technology.

1. The Square Kilometre Array
The Square Kilometre Array is a current collaborative international radio telescope project that involves Australia as well as eight sub-Saharan African countries. Once completed in 2024, the telescope will be the largest and most sensitive on the planet allowing scientists to address the most pressing unanswered questions of the universe.

2. The Next Einstein Initiative 
Since its creation in 2008, the Next Einstein initiative, created by Neil Turok, has been establishing centers of excellence in African nations with the intent of providing a nurturing environment for budding scientific minds. The goal of the organization is to help create the world’s next great scientist.

3. Previous Contributions to HIV Research
Since the 1980s when Africa became a hub for research regarding HIV, Africa has further contributed to research and breakthroughs regarding the virus. Among these breakthroughs was the understanding of mother-to-child transmission.

4. The MeerKAT Radio Telescope
Predicted to be operational in 2016, the MeerKAT radio telescope will be the largest and most powerful radio telescope until the completion of the Square Kilometer Array in 2024. The possible areas for MeerKAT research will be cosmic magnetism, galactic evolution and dark matter research.

5. Silicon Savannah
Konza City, nicknamed Africa’s ‘Silicon Savannah,’ will be an entire city in Kenya dedicated to research and technological development. The city will be roughly 5,000 acres, 64 km south of Nairobi, and is projected to create 100,000 jobs by 2030.

While these developments foreshadow a positive progression of the African contribution to science and technology, one problem still exists. Many African communities still struggle with making higher education available to students. The previous developments have occurred despite this setback and, as a higher educational infrastructure begins to come to fruition, more progress is certain to be on the way.

– Pete Grapentien
Source BBC

BRICS Think Tanks Plan Involvement With AfricaBRICS think tanks are planning the proceedings of the 2013 BRICS summit in Durban, South Africa. The proceedings will decide the course of BRICS’s support and capitalization on exploring African economies.

BRICS (an association of the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) will be discussing the establishment of the BRICS Development Bank which was proposed at last years’ BRICS conference in New Delhi.

Although it would be an internationally supported bank, the BRICS Development Bank would not be competing with larger banks such as the World Bank or International Monetary Fund (IMF). Instead, the BRICS Development Bank will be concerned with financing and supporting intra-BRICS programs and emerging African economies.

Among the finance projects of the BRICS Development Bank will be creating job prospects, urbanization and infrastructure development of African communities and economies. While the goals of larger organizations such as the World Bank are in line with these same pursuits, many representatives affiliated with the BRICS association feel that reform is necessary and that a more focused bank could better meet the needs of developing African economies.

If the BRICS Development Bank is established, South African officials believe that it should be based in their country.

-Pete Grapentien

Source Business Day

Is A 'Silicon Savannah' The Answer To Poverty In Africa?While many African economies are showing tremendous growth, a new struggle is beginning among African nations to establish technological hubs and assert themselves as leaders in Africa’s emerging technological boom.

Perhaps following Egypt’s lead, Ghana and Kenya have begun constructing entire cities focused on IT research and software development. Ghana plans to create Africa’s largest building, a 75-story tower reaching over 885 feet backed by the telecom group RLG. Some 4,000 miles away, Kenya has invested $14.5 billion to create what it has nicknamed “Africa’s Silicon Savannah.” Konza City will be a tech city focused on software development.

These cities are a great improvement and move toward the direction of developed nations, but the actual number of jobs may be a future problem. Cities like Konza may be new to Africa, but they are common in the developed world and often supported by a network of adjoining developed tech-savvy cities.

However, the unique advantage African based tech communities have is the first-hand access to the emerging markets in Africa. African economies have been growing exponentially and are set to outpace their Asian counterparts in the coming years. Being so closely linked to these markets will allow African tech communities to better assess and meet the needs of the quickly developing markets. While a “Silicon Savannah” may not be the only answer to poverty in Africa, it will definitely help on the road to development.

– Pete Grapentien

Source ZD Net

How Myanmar Will Avoid Being Earth's Most Isolated CountryHaving less cell phone usage than North Korea has made Myanmar one of the most isolated countries on the planet. Upon the United States’ decision to lift sanctions on the country, USAID was happy to sponsor a delegation of executives from Cisco, Google, Microsoft and other organizations to explore the possibility of establishing tech training centers in the newly open Myanmar market.

A little over two decades ago, the U.S. imposed sanctions on Myanmar when the military junta killed thousands of civilian protestors in one brutal onslaught. Currently, a new civilian government has been established and many of these sanctions have been lifted.

Companies like Google and Microsoft are offering Myanmar more than just tech services by establishing training centers in the country. The effect of these centers will be a reinforcement of Myanmar’s technological infrastructure.  The widespread availability of internet and cellular service allows a greater opportunity for online learning and social organizing via websites such as Twitter which can be used through either SMS messages or the internet.

Another avenue that becomes easier to access is international development and trade. By contributing to tech growth, Google, Cisco and Microsoft are also helping Myanmar contribute to the global economy. This in turn allows Myanmar to grow its own economy and strengthen foreign relations.

-Pete Grapentien
Source Yahoo News

Too often, the positive effects of government aid are either overlooked or overshadowed. However, the Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cabinet Cluster (HDPRCC) of the Philippines has released Voices of Change, a book documenting the triumphs of 18 people over poverty.

One of the stories the book documents is that of Bec, a 56 year-old woman with a visual impairment. Although Bec was born into poverty with a disability, through government assistance and hard work, she earned her bachelor’s degree and has spent her life giving back to the community by preparing braille for students with visual impairments in public schools.

Bec’s story stands as a symbol of the progress that governmental assistance can make in impoverished communities. Not only has Bec pulled herself out of poverty, she continues to pay it forward and contribute to the education and development of children who were born at a disadvantage. Government aid in this case has given rise to a butterfly effect of progress and economic development. Bec’s success has enabled more impoverished students to attain success which will have a ripple effect on their communities, the Philippines, and eventually the global economy.

In a country that is fighting its way into the ranks of developed nations, stories like Bec’s continue to inspire and motivate people to contribute despite their disabilities or economic situation. All they need is a hand up.

– Pete Grapentien

Source Rappler

5 Ways That Africa is ImprovingIn the past, Africa has been a notoriously troubled continent. While some African countries are plagued by political turmoil, some are plagued by poverty, while others are just plagued by English nobility. With all of the media attention to the problems in Africa, it would seem that the continent is caught in a downward spiral. But is that necessarily true?

Here are five ways that Africa is improving:

1. Africa’s Economy is Flourishing 
As a continent, Africa’s economy is projected to grow 6% in 2013 while the world’s collective economic growth for this year is projected to be around 1.2%. At 6%, Africa has eclipsed even U.S. growth, which is projected to be around 2.5%.

2. Children Are Putting Down Guns and Picking Up Books
Fewer children bear arms and records numbers are going to school. Africa as a whole has around 12 guns for every 100 people. Although this pales in comparison to the United States’ one gun per person ratio, many African countries are trying to limit gun sales and restrict the use of existing guns.

3. HIV Rates Are Dropping
HIV infections have fallen by 75%. Safe sex programs and advice has been disseminated through Africa, sometimes in the form of soap operas. Whatever the strategy, it’s been working as HIV rates continue to plummet.

4. Foreign Investment is Increasing
Foreign investment in Africa has tripled while the economic markets in many countries remain uncultivated and untapped. This presents the perfect opportunity for businesses to invest in Africa.

5. Average Personal Income is Growing
75% of African countries have an average an income of $1,000 per person. While $1,000 a year isn’t much, it is over the global poverty standard of $1.25.

These victories are huge, it shows that Africa is improving. However, there is still more progress to be made and more work to be done. As long as philanthropic organizations and individuals keep assisting with helpful information and other forms of support, big improvements are on the horizon in Africa.

– Pete Grapentien

Source The Economist

Can Soap Operas Help Fight Poverty?While the era of the soap operas may be coming to a close in the United States, in many Arabic countries soaps are becoming more and more popular. This increase has come from the unusual mix of American melodrama characteristics (love, family turmoil, deceit, etc.) with cultural values that audiences can identify with.

Surprisingly, soap operas have a history of influencing impoverished communities for the better. In South Africa, a soap opera addressed safe sex and it was found that the viewers of the soap were four times more likely to use condoms than non-viewers. In Mexico City, a soap opera aired that discussed the issue of child literacy. This caused enrollment in literacy programs to skyrocket throughout the entire city.  Even in Colorado, many low-income families increased their child’s health insurance after viewing a soap opera discussing child health problems.

One of the ways in which soap operas can aid in the fight against poverty is through awareness. With such a large audience, a soap opera could be an incredible tool used for spreading awareness about social, health, and economic issues facing impoverished communities. In this way, altering the content of a soap opera to contain relevant content for viewers would only increase ratings.

Although the effectiveness of soap operas being used as an educational tool isn’t full-proof, the idea of altering soap operas, at least slightly, to educate impoverished communities on governmental and social issues seems like an effective strategy to raise awareness about social issues, injustices, and aid in the struggle against poverty.

– Pete Grapentien

Source: Al Jazeera

How Foreign Aid Could Have Prevented Al-Qaeda in MaliAn al-Qaeda strategic document was uncovered in Mali last week which outlined the terrorist group’s methodology for influencing North Africa and the country of Mali. The document hints at a common tactic of the terrorist organization: support impoverished areas with food and other basic needs, form a dependency, then impose Sharia law.

Mali, being within the 25 poorest countries in the world, was the perfect place for al-Qaeda to gain support.

The terrorist document’s composer, Abu Musab Abdul Wadud, spoke of developing al-Qaeda support in northern Africa as if it were a child, saying, “we must ease its burden, take it by the hand, help it and support it until it stands.”

Many people see U.S. foreign aid as simply a philanthropic act with little effect on anything besides our global image. However, in cases of global poverty, it is beneficial for U.S. security to decrease the percentage and extremity of impoverished countries. This simultaneously improves the lives of families living under these harsh conditions and fortifies communities against the influence of terrorist groups, such as in the case of al-Qaeda in Mali.

– Pete Grapentien

Source: Guardian

Why Investing in Africa is the Right MoveAccording to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), there is a 16 percent chance that global growth will dip below two percent this year. An unlikely contender as far as investment options are concerned, investing in Africa may be a lucrative opportunity for investors looking for solace in a declining global market.

Africa is notorious for being a troubled continent. However, as the economic problems begin to fade, stock markets are projected to rise, making Africa a prime candidate to overtake Asia in terms of economic growth by 2015.

The IMF has estimated that in the next five years, 10 out of the 20 fastest-growing economies will be in sub-Saharan Africa and two will be in North Africa. An example of exploding economic growth is Nigeria, where the average income has quadrupled since 2000. Sierra Leone, Ghana, Kenya, and Ethiopia are all seeing quick economic inclines as well.

While African markets are becoming more and more likely to expand rapidly in the next few years, making investing in Africa a lucrative choice, many investors are still reluctant to invest due to the lack of liquidity (ability to buy and sell) of African stock.

– Pete Grapentien

Source: The Telegraph

Teenager Helps Residents of a Garbage DumpWhile most teenage girls her age are reluctant to take out the trash, Courtney Quigley is begging her parents to return to Guatemala City to help the poverty-stricken residents of a garbage dump there. In the past, Courtney has worked with Potter House, a nonprofit which helps the 11,000 people living in the garbage dump. Out of that population, 6,500 are children.

According to the Lake Zurich Patch, Courtney first fell in love with Guatemala when she was nine and her family took a trip to build playgrounds with Kids Around the World, an organization whose primary goal is to provide safe play equipment for children who find it difficult to be “just a kid.” Courtney describes the garbage dump as being 40 acres filled with trash and yet the children somehow manage to stay positive and in high spirits.

While her family has been on other mission trips, Courtney has fallen in love with Guatemala. She was able to return in 2011, meeting a family of seven who lived in a 9 x 10 shack. One of the children, a 15-year-old girl, was pregnant and Courtney decided that something needed to be done to help improve their living condition.

To help, Courtney and her friends are hosting a “Hope’s in Style” fashion show fundraiser on February 24 at the Garlands Center in Barrington, Illinois.

Although she is now living in the United States, the memory of the children in Guatemala still remains vivid in her mind.

“There is nothing here that is hopeful, but when you shake hands, hug, and talk to people, they are so full of hope, so full of faith,” Courtney said. Their determination to make the best of their situation is what inspires her to keep moving forward.

 – Pete Grapentien

Source: Lake Zurich Patch