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Kenya’s BRCK becomes largest public Wi-Fi network in Sub-Saharan Africa

BRCK was formed in 2013 by some of the co-founders of Ushahidi and
Nairobi’s iHub

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Photo - BRCK website

BRCK, the Kenyan company bringing internet access to East Africa, has 
acquired Surf, another internet provider, to become the largest public 
WiFi network in Sub-Saharan Africa.

BRCK was formed in 2013 by some of the co-founders of Ushahidi and 
Nairobi’s iHub as a means of countering Kenya’s notorious power 
failures with a portable hotspot, It then expanded into education 
bringing multimedia video education into classrooms across East Africa.

In 2017, it launched a smart system called Supa BRCK, which aimed to 
solve the lack of internet access in Africa by bringing the internet 
to rural villages.

By acquiring Surf, which is the second-largest public WiFi provider in 
Kenya, BRCK aims to grow faster in fixed WiFi locations.”

Plans also include finding new ways to enter new geographic markets, 
starting with fixed WiFi and then with “transportation and edge 
connectivity”.

The combined companies will now have over 2,000 public hotspots across 
Kenya, with 500,000 users a month.

BRCK believes that the acquisition will go a long way towards 
supporting Africa’s technological evolution. 

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Conservation News

Endangered rhino species gets a chance at survival with scientific breakthrough

“We are delighted that this partnership gets us one step closer to prevent extinction of the northern white rhinos”

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Endangered rhino species gets a chance at survival with scientific breakthrough
A white rhinoceros and a few months old rhinoceros calf go on the territory of private rhinoceros rearing of J. Hume in South Africa's Northwest Province. There are currently more than 1700 white rhinos living on the farm. Photo: Jürgen Bätz/dpa

Veterinarians have successfully harvested eggs from the last two surviving northern white rhinos, taking them one step closer to bringing the species back from the brink of extinction, scientists said in Kenya on Friday.

Science is the only hope for the northern white rhino after the death last year of the last male, named Sudan, at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya where the groundbreaking procedure was carried out Thursday.

Two females, Najin, 30, and daughter Fatu, 19, are the only survivors of the subspecies of white rhino, and live under 24-hour armed guard at Ol Pejeta.

However, neither is able to carry a calf. Fatu has degenerative lesions in her uterus and Najin has weak hind legs which could cause complications if she fell pregnant.

But an international consortium of scientists and conservationists has been working on a project costing several million dollars to save the northern white rhino using pioneering artificial reproduction techniques that have taken years of research and development.

Technique developed from scratch –

Endangered rhino species gets a chance at survival with scientific breakthrough
A white rhinoceros and a few months old rhinoceros calf go on the territory of private rhinoceros rearing of J. Hume in South Africa’s Northwest Province. There are currently more than 1700 white rhinos living on the farm. Photo: Jürgen Bätz/dpa

“We were able to harvest a total of 10 oocytes — five from Najin and five from Fatu — showing that both females can still provide eggs and thus help to save these magnificent creatures,” said Professor Thomas Hildebrandt from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo & Wildlife Research (IZW) in Germany who helped carry out the procedure.

READ: Africa’s rare giraffes face ‘silent extinction’ threats

“Both the technique and the equipment had to be developed entirely from scratch,” he said.

The eggs — which cannot be frozen — were immediately flown to a laboratory in Italy to be fertilised with cryogenically frozen sperm, of which there are samples from four deceased males.

The resulting embryos will then be frozen until they can be transferred into a surrogate mother from the southern white rhino subspecies. The first such rhino embryos using in-vitro techniques were created last year.

The team working on the project also includes Italian biotech laboratory Avantea, Czech zoo Dvur Kralove and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).

“We are delighted that this partnership gets us one step closer to prevent extinction of the northern white rhinos. This is particularly touching, given the heartbreaking death of Sudan, the last male, who died of old age last year in Kenya,” said John Waweru, KWS director-general. 

Sudan gained worldwide fame in 2017 after he was featured on the popular dating app Tinder in an effort to raise money for the IVF procedure. 

Wiped out by poaching –

There are five rhino species remaining on earth of which black and white rhinos are found in Africa. The northern white rhino is generally considered a subspecies of white rhino although some scientists believe it to be a sixth species.

Rhinos have few predators in the wild due to their size.

Endangered rhino species gets a chance at survival with scientific breakthrough
A caregiver calming Sudan, the last known male of the Northern White Rhinoceros subspecies, at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Laikipia County, at the foot of Mount Kenya. (Photo by Tony KARUMBA / AFP)

However, demand for rhino horn in traditional Chinese medicine and dagger handles in Yemen fuelled a poaching crisis in the 1970s and 1980s that largely wiped out the northern white rhino population in Uganda, the Central African Republic, Sudan and Chad.

READ: Poo Power: How dung biodigester is supercharging farming in Kenya

By 2008, the northern white rhino was considered extinct in the wild.

Modern rhinos have plodded the earth for 26 million years. As recently as the mid-19th century there were more than one million in Africa. The western black rhino was declared extinct in 2011.

Obstacles to success –

If the IVF is successful, scientists say there may be several births of northern white rhino calves, but the approach has its limits.

Eggs can only be collected from the females three times a year, and a lack of genetic diversity could hamper the survival of the species.

However, the consortium of international scientists known as BioRescue is also trying to create artificial sex cells known as gametes via stem cell transformation from the frozen tissue of other, unrelated northern white rhinos, to diversify the gene pool.

According to the team working on the project, the aim is to re-introduce the rhino into secure habitats within the areas they used to roam. This could take up to 70 years.

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East Africa News

Ugandan police confirm the death of 19 people in fuel truck blast

The blast occurred Sunday evening in the Kyambura trading centre, a mountainous area near the Queen Elizabeth National Park

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Ugandan police confirm the death of 19 people in fuel truck blast

Nineteen people died when a fuel truck barrelled into other vehicles in a busy town in western Uganda and exploded, police said Monday.

The blast occurred Sunday evening in the Kyambura trading centre, a mountainous area near the Queen Elizabeth National Park.

“Ten people died instantly when the fuel truck lost control and hit three other vehicles, leading to multiple explosions that also burned 25 small shops,” said regional police spokesman Martial Tumusiime.

“Of the people that were rushed to the hospital, nine of them have also died as a result of wounds,” he added. 

In 2002, 70 people were killed when an oil truck rammed into a bus in Rutoto, less than 50 kilometres from Kyambura.

And in 2013, 33 people died in an explosion after a fuel truck overturned — many having rushed to the scene to siphon fuel.

The accident in Uganda came eight days after a fuel truck exploded in Tanzania. The fireball engulfed a crowd thronging to collect petrol from the wrecked vehicle, leaving 95 dead.

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East Africa News

President pardons 4 jailed opponents in Comoros

The four were jailed for life for attempting a coup and threatening state security but had their terms reduced to 20 years in May

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Comoros President Azali Assoumani pardons 4 political opponents

Comoros President Azali Assoumani has pardoned four opposition figures jailed for life for an attempted coup in the Indian Ocean islands. In a decree issued Saturday, writer Said Ahmed Said Tourqui, lawyer Bahassane Ahmed Said, Mohamed Ali Abdallah and El-Had Ibrahim Halifa were “pardoned from all of their remaining sentences”.

The four were jailed for life for attempting a coup and threatening state security but had their terms reduced to 20 years in May when 17 other jailed opponents were pardoned. The charges were linked to unrest that followed a controversial constitutional referendum to extend the president’s term last year. 

Pay Attention: Comoros awaits results of divisive poll

Bahassane is the younger brother of Jaffar Ahmed Said Hassani, a former vice-president to Azali now living in exile in Tanzania after denouncing the president’s authoritarianism. The pardons follow Azali’s re-election in March, in which he pledged “appeasement measures” to quell accusations of voter fraud.

He was credited with nearly 60 per cent of the ballot, an outcome rejected as fraudulent by the opposition. Comoros has had a volatile political history since independence in 1975, enduring more than 20 attempted coups, four of which were successful.

Pay Attention: Comoros oil boom dream hinges on seismic survey

Azali initially came to power in a coup, then ruled between 1999 and 2006. He was re-elected in 2016 in a vote marred by violence and allegations of irregularities.

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