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Zimbabwe tech students recognized for creative problem solving

This competition was aimed at coming up with creative solutions for one of the world’s largest developmental issues

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Photo credit: Technomag

It can be argued that the greatest factor keeping the people of Zimbabwe going is hope. In a nation where an entire generation is yet to experience what it means to live in a stable economy, this hope converts itself into daily activities of problem-solving to get by.

The achievement of a group of young students at the just concluded World Summit for Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva is an optimal example of this.

WSIS 2019 was a 4-day summit on information, communication and in broad terms the information society hosted by the International Telecommunications HQ. The summit included a hackathon themed “Hacking Solutions for Lifelong Learning and Livelihoods” among other activities.

This competition was aimed at coming up with creative solutions for one of the world’s largest developmental issues, achieving universal education. The Zimbabwean team comprising of Isaac Gadzimbe (University of Zimbabwe), Kudakwashe Paradzayi  (Harare Institute of Technology) and Charmaine Kumbirayi (National University of Sciences and Technology) won the award for the ‘Most Creative Idea’ in a challenge against 20 other countries from across the world.

The team created a platform that improves the learning experience in overcrowded schools suffering from teacher shortages. The platform enhances the learning experience by allowing students to teach each other interactively, as opposed to relying entirely on a teacher. On the platform, students are able to create their own content, for example questions, which can then be answered and discussed with their peers via the same medium.

The intended result is that in overcrowded classes, students are still able to access additional learning materials as an alternative to the gap created by the teacher’s inability to give special attention to every learner.

Zimbabwe has been under diplomatic and financial sanctions for over a decade, coupled with economic collapse, the nation has been largely isolated from the rest of the world for the better part of the era of technological transformation that is underway globally.

The fact that these resilient students, sponsored by the nation’s Post and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (POTRAZ), were able to make a contribution worthy of commendation on a global stage is a true testament to the capabilities of the determined African spirit.

The group were celebrated by the country’s Minister of ICT Kazembe Kazembe, who tweeted, “Congratulations to our young techpreneurs participating in the Hackathon for winning the prestigious award for the Most Creative Application Idea”

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Somalia’s floating restaurant and beach provide fun refuge

We considered that pirates could hijack it, and use it to attack cargo ships -restaurant owner

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Somalia's floating restaurant and beach provide refuge
The luxury La Lanterna Bar restaurant boat, sails in the Indian Ocean near Lido beach in Mogadishu, Somalia. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

Few restaurateurs consider the threat of piracy in their plans but Abdulkadir Mohamed did so for his La Lanterna floating restaurant now moored off Mogadishu’s popular Lido beach.

“We considered that pirates could hijack it, and use it to attack cargo ships,” he said on the top of the double-deck boat as it bounced on the warm waters of the Indian Ocean a short distance from the Somali capital’s coastline.

“We made it slow,” he explained, so pirates would not see it as a prize vessel to seize and use in any of their attacks.

Pirates were once the scourge of the region, chasing oil tankers and other ships and demanding ransoms for those they captured. But as Somalia has regained a semblance of stability after almost three decades of conflict and chaos, piracy has faded, even if sporadic bombings still strike the capital.

A modicum of calm means Somalis are seeking out more leisure activities outside their homes, and the Lido beach, with its bleach white sand, is drawing the crowds.

Somalia's floating restaurant and beach provide refuge
Young boy walks along the seashore on the Lido beach in Mogadishu, Somalia.

With extra security and checkpoints to protect the 2.5 km (1.5 mile) stretch of sand from possible Islamist attacks, the beach offers a place to escape from the battle-scarred capital.

“Sitting on Lido Beach, having tea or coffee in the evening, you can see different colors and feel sometimes that you are in another world,” said Omar Abule, the manager of travel agent Visit Mogadishu, describing the cobalt waters and orange sunsets.

Families plunge into the water – the women from this religiously conservative country still wear their headscarves and loose garments as they sit or swim in the sea.

Visitors feeling more adventurous can don a life jacket and take a small launch to La Lanterna as it bobs near the beach. After clambering aboard, they can have a coffee or cold drink and order a snack, an opportunity to forget challenges ashore.

“I am happy to get on board such a boat,” said Samira Mohammed on La Lanterna. “Coming to Lido beach gives you big hope.”

Abdifitah Mohamed Siyad, director of tourism and investment in Mogadishu’s local government, said the city had been ruined by wars and most people had “stories of grief”.

“The remedy for the people is to create happiness for them, create an environment for tourism, a time for them to tour, a time for them to chat and forget the past,” he said.

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Botswana suspends elephant hunting ban

Landlocked Botswana has the largest elephant population in Africa, with more than 135,000 roaming freely

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Botswana suspends elephant hunting ban
African savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana), around a water hole, Nxai pan national park, Bostwana. Biosphoto / Sylvain Cordier

Botswana on Wednesday lifted its ban on elephant hunting, saying the population had increased and farmers’ livelihoods were being impacted, in a move set to trigger outrage from conservationists.

A prohibition on elephant hunting was introduced in the country in 2014 by then-president Ian Khama, a keen environmentalist.

But lawmakers from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) have been lobbying to overturn the ban, saying numbers have become unmanageably large in some areas.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi took over from Khama last year and a public review began five months later, with reports suggesting growing political friction between Masisi and his predecessor.

“Botswana has taken a decision to lift the hunting suspension,” the environment ministry said in a statement.

It said a cabinet committee review that found that “the number and high levels of human-elephant conflict and the consequent impact on livelihoods was increasing”.

“The general consensus from those consulted was that the hunting ban should be lifted,” it added, vowing that hunting would be re-started “in an orderly and ethical manner”.

Landlocked Botswana has the largest elephant population in Africa, with more than 135,000 roaming freely in its unfenced parks and wide open spaces.

Some experts say the number of elephants in the country, renowned as a luxury safari destination, has almost tripled over the last 30 years, and that the population could now be over 160,000.

Crops destroyed –

Farmers struggle to keep elephants out of their fields where they eat crops and can kill people.

Lifting the hunting ban could be a popular move with rural voters ahead of an election due in October.

Many of Botswana’s elephants roam across borders into Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

All four countries have called for a global ban on elephant ivory trade to be relaxed due to the growing number of the animals in some regions.

“We cannot continue to be spectators while others debate and take decisions about our elephants,” Masisi told a meeting of the countries’ presidents this month in Botswana.

“Conflict between elephants and people is on the rise as the demand for land for agriculture and settlements is growing,” he said.

While elephant numbers have increased in some areas, over the past decade, the population of elephants across Africa has fallen by about 111,000 to 415,000, largely due to poaching for ivory, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Zimbabwe said this month it had sold nearly 100 elephants to China and Dubai for a total price of $2.7 million over six years due to overpopulation.

Botswana last year rejected claims by a leading conservation charity that there had been a surge of elephant poaching.

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Kenyan High Court due to pass rule on homosexuality

Activists believe Kenya has a chance to blaze a trail in Africa.

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Kenyan High Court due to pass rule on homosexuality | News Central TV
Kenyan court. (File photo)

Kenya’s High Court is on Friday expected to deliver a long-awaited ruling on whether to scrap colonial-era laws which criminalise homosexuality in the country.

However, the LGBT community fears yet another postponement. In February, the three-judge bench pushed back its decision, citing a heavy workload, prompting dismay from a persecuted community who have fought for years to be accepted.

“There are a lot of mixed emotions around this because people are just wary of the fact that it could be postponed yet again,” Brian Macharia of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK), one of the petitioners, told AFP.

“Everyone is just hopeful and we recognise that things could go either way.”

Gay rights organisations are asking the court to scrap two sections of the penal code that criminalises homosexuality.

One section states that anyone who has “carnal knowledge… against the order of nature” can be imprisoned for 14 years. Another provides for a five-year jail term for “indecent practices between males”.

Activists believe Kenya has a chance to blaze a trail in Africa where homophobia is virulent in many communities, with similar laws in over half the countries on the continent.

While convictions under the decades-old laws are rare, gay activists say the legislation is unconstitutional and fuels homophobia.

The National Gay And Lesbian Human Rights Commission says it dealt with 15 prosecutions under the laws in 2018, with no convictions recorded.

‘Unimaginable harm’ –

The petitioners argue that under Kenya’s 2010 constitution, every person is said to be equal before the law.

However, members of the LGBT community are blackmailed, evicted, fired, expelled from school, or assaulted over their sexual orientation, but are unable to access justice without effectively confessing to a crime.

“LGBTQ people in Kenya for years and years have faced and suffered violence and harm in unimaginable ways, but justice has not been afforded to them because of the penal code,” said Macharia.

Activists are optimistic of an eventual ruling in their favour, given recent decisions by the court.

In March, the High Court banned forced anal testing of men suspected of being gay.

And in September, a court ruled that “Rafiki” (“Friend”), a film about a lesbian love affair which was the first Kenyan movie to be shown at the Cannes film festival, could be screened domestically for seven days after its initial banning.

Macharia said Kenya’s powerful churches had been holding special events in the leadup to the ruling to fight what they term “the LGBT agenda”.

“The church is spreading a lot of hatred, a lot of misinformation,” he said.

The petition is being fought by an association of Catholics, Protestants and evangelicals.

Twenty-eight out of 49 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have laws penalising same-sex relationships, according to Neela Ghoshal, a Human Rights Watch (HRW) specialist in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights.

The death penalty is on the books, under Islamic sharia law, in Mauritania, Sudan and northern Nigeria, although there have been no known executions in recent times. In southern Somalia, gay men are believed to have been put to death in territory ruled by the Al-Shabaab jihadist group.

Angola, Mozambique and Seychelles have scrapped anti-gay laws in recent years.

On the other hand, Chad and Uganda have introduced or toughened legislation.

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