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POPSCI NEWS

Posted on 17 April 2013 by Africa Business

  • 5 Ways Drones Could Help In A Disaster Like The Boston Marathon Bombing
    Plus three robots that are already saving lives.

    Yesterday, the President of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Michael Toscano told U.S. News: “Whether it is in response to a natural disaster or a tragedy like we saw in Boston, [unmanned aerial systems] can be quickly deployed to provide first responders with critical situational awareness in areas too dangerous or difficult for manned aircraft to reach.”

    Is he right? Well, he’s not entirely wrong. Drones, like manned helicopters used by police and emergency responders, can hover, provide a great overall picture of action on the ground, and direct aid to where it’s needed. The trick is that, right now, drones don’t do that uniquely, which is what a sales pitch on their special capacity demands. Boston did in fact have a police helicopter flying overhead, and the problem of low fuel reportedly overheard on the police scanner is a problem that another helicopter could have solved just as easily. Drones aren’t particularly special in disaster relief-yet.

    As drone tech advances, we could soon see remotely piloted vehicles joining the ranks of police departments and emergency response organizations. Here are five drones that might save a life in a future disaster.

    1. The MQ-8C Fire Scout: This full-size, unmanned helicopter could ultimately replace police or medical evacuation helicopters. The crew compartment can, among other things, be converted to hold an EMS team for medical airlift, or extra fuel to stay aloft longer.

    2. Quadrotors: Drones like the Aeryon Scout provide a wealth of video coverage, spying on rooftops and moving in fearlessly to document a blast zone. (Of course, civilian smartphones did much of that work in Boston.)

    3. Swarm of Swiss robots: By emulating the patterns ants use to hunt for food, these swarming drones can efficiently scan a large area and then converge where they are needed-a strategy that requires an awful lot of manpower when it’s used by human search-and-rescue workers.

    4. Incredible HLQ: This quadrotor is designed to carry relief supplies to places people can’t access, or can’t access fast enough, during an emergency. It’s in development now after a successful Kickstarter campaign.

    5. The Pars Aerial Rescue Bot: While not strictly applicable to Boston, this Iranian lifeguard quadrotor could aid in disasters along coastal areas, flying through severe weather to rescue people from drowning.

    Flying machines aren’t the only rescue robots we can expect in the future. Unmanned ground machines also have a lot to offer. CHIMP, a monkey-tank-robot created by Carnegie Melon, is designed specifically to climb over rubble or up ladders to save people in collapsed buildings. DARPA’s Robotics Challenge, in which CHIMP is an entrant, has inspired several robots designed to take the place of humans in emergency situations.

    Three types of ground robots are already saving lives around the world:

    1. A whole fleet of earthquake-response rescue robots: These are currently at work in Japan, and they include the RoboCue victim-recovery bot.

    2. Talon: QinetiQ’s bomb-disposal robot made a name for itself fighting IEDs in the Iraq War. There’s also a police version available.

    3. The Land Shark EODS: This remotely controlled robot is used to detonate explosives safely away from people. Massachusetts State Police have at least one on hand.

    The future will certainly see more robots rushing to save lives, and undoubtedly some of those will be flying. The future promise of flying rescuers, however, should not distract us from the actual ground robots that are being used in Boston presently.

        

  • FYI: Can Humans Get High On Catnip?
    Samantha J. Kitty fiending for some catnip Evan Kafka via Suzanne LaBarre
    Related: Can cats get high on marijuana?

    While cats may feel effects from marijuana-no word on whether Sir Harry Paus actually likes the experience-”kitty pot” does not have a reciprocal effect on humans.

    In the late 1960s, some researchers reported catnip gave people a marijuana-like high, but it turned out they had simply mixed up the two plants. As veterinarian Arnold Plotnick of Manhattan Cat Specialists in New York wrote to me in an email, “Think about it… catnip is cheap and legal. If it had a significant effect on people, everyone would be smoking it.”

    Meanwhile, cats do feel effects from marijuana, but it may be scary for them. “Animals can’t understand they’re being intoxicated, therefore it can cause considerable anxiety,” says Bruce Kornreich, associate director of the Cornell Feline Health Center in upstate New York.

    It’s not clear why the active chemical in catnip, nepetalactone, doesn’t affect humans, Kornreich says. Pot affects cats because like many mammals, including humans and dogs, cats have receptors in their brains for pot’s active chemicals, cannabinoids. Cannabinoid receptors make pets susceptible to feeling symptoms when they inhale secondhand smoke or, more commonly, accidentally eat their owners’ stashes. (It’s actually a bigger problem with dogs, he says, because dogs eat everything.)

    Kornreich has seen pets come into veterinary emergency rooms after marijuana exposure. “The pets are presented for anxiety, active heart rate, acting a little unusual,” he says. “They may react differently to sound and to being touched” perhaps because, like humans, drugs alter their perception.

    Kornreich urges pet owners to take their pets to a vet if this happens, adding that vets are not required by law to report marijuana they run into during their practice. Most veterinarians care more about making pets better, he says. “It’s more just focused on the well-being of the patient.”

    He also strongly discourages purposefully exposing a pet to marijuana. Fido and Kitty can’t consent to getting high. “I don’t think it’s right or fair to make that decision for an animal,” he says.

    If pot affects cats because they have cannabinoid receptors, does that mean people aren’t affected by catnip because they don’t have nepetalactone receptors? Scientists aren’t sure. “While it seems that this is a reasonable hypothesis to explain why humans don’t respond to catnip like cats do, I cannot find any studies that rigorously test it,” Kornreich says. While many brain receptors are common across different animals, many receptors also differ, so it wouldn’t be unprecedented for humans to lack a receptor present in cat brains.

    In cats, inhaled nepetalactone stimulates the olfactory bulb, the part of the brain that processes odors. The olfactory bulb then interacts with the amygdala, the brain region associated with emotion and decision-making, and hypothalamus, which controls a variety of bodily functions. From the hypothalamus, nepetalactone stimulates a sexual response in cats that are genetically predisposed to sensitivity to catnip. (About 20 to 30 percent of cats don’t seem to react to the plant.)

    Some insects seem to react to nepetalactone, too. Strangely enough, chemical companies are studying nepetalactone because it seems to repel mosquitoes, ticks and mites, like a kind of natural DEET. For the insects to change their behavior around nepetalactone, even if negatively, suggests that they have nepetalactone receptors.

    As for smoking catnip: not only does it fail to get people high, it can make them feel pretty awful. Too much catnip, whether smoked or drunk as a tea, could cause headaches and vomiting.

    Have a burning science question you’d like to see answered in our FYI section? Email it to fyi@popsci.com.

        

  • Audi Wants Its Cars To Predict Where Traffic Will Be
    Traffic Jam epSos.de
    Side-stepping traffic by mining data

    At the GPU Technology Conference 2013 show in San Jose, Audi announced some of its plans for its Cars of the Future, The Register reports. One of the coolest ideas: cars that can predict where traffic will be, so drivers can avoid it.

    The amply named Predictive Traffic function would mine traffic records and current reports, including social media, as well as scheduled events like sports games that could bring cars to a standstill. The system, under Audi’s plan, could also predict a driver’s most likely destination based on their traffic history.

    Pretty neat! Along with that, Audi announced a concept for a reworked directions system that would operate in a “human-like” way, giving directions based on landmarks instead of streets. A Smart Parking feature would work similarly to the traffic-predicting system, but do it for parking spots: mapping out available spots and prices for those spots, rather than making you drive around in circles hunting one down.

    We don’t have too many details yet on exactly how these systems would work, but since Audi did make a self-driving car, hopefully we’ll see these projects come to life soon, too.

    [The Register]

        

  • Magnetic Brain Stimulation Removes Craving For Cigarettes
    Smoking Kills Challiyil Eswaramangalath Vipin via Wikimedia
    Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt!

    Scientists at Medical University of South Carolina temporarily blunted cigarette cravings among smokers by magnetically stimulating nerve cells in their brains. The procedure, called transcranial magnetic stimulation, is already approved by the FDA to treat depression, though its efficacy is controversial (it’s also been prescribed to stop people from lying and treat adult ADHD.)

    In the experiment, researchers randomly assigned 16 smokers to either a 15-minute session of high-frequency transcranial magnetic stimulation (in which coils placed over the forehead send magnetic pulses into the prefrontal cortex), or 15 minutes of sham treatment. The magnetic stimulation isn’t painful and doesn’t require sedation or anesthesia. The scientists told the volunteers not to smoke for two hours prior to the experiment.

    Before the treatment, the researchers showed the smokers both neutral images (such as mountain scenes) and images intended to provoke nicotine cravings (such as a person lightning a cigarette.) Then they asked the volunteers to rate how they felt about statements like “I would do almost anything for a cigarette now” and “I am going to smoke as soon as possible.” After the magnetic stimulation, the participants saw similar images and again rated how much they craved a cigarette.

    The researchers found that the participants who got the real magnet treatment expressed significantly less desire to smoke at the end of the experiment compared with those who got the fake treatment. In fact, the craving reduction was positively correlated with how nicotine-dependent the volunteer was, meaning that those who smoked the most saw the greatest decrease in cigarette craving after the magnetic stimulation.

    The authors of the study note that people trying to quit smoking would need several sessions of transcranial magnetic stimulation per day in order to see longer-lasting reductions in cravings. The paper appears in Biological Psychiatry.

        

  • Everything You Need To Know About Ricin, The Poison Mailed To President Obama
    Ricin (on Breaking Bad) via Breaking Bad Wiki
    Ricin is one of the most poisonous substances on Earth, it’s scarily easy to make, and somebody is mailing it to the President and at least one U.S. senator. What it is, how it works, and more, inside.

    Yesterday, an envelope addressed to Senator Roger Wicker, Republican of Mississippi, was found to contain a white granular substance that was identified as ricin. Today, a similar letter addressed to President Obama was found. These envelopes were intercepted off-site–they never got anywhere near their targets–but as a precaution, Capitol Police have shut down mail service until they can figure out what’s going on.

    In the meantime, let’s talk about ricin!

    How poisonous is it?
    Oh, man. Very. It’s dangerous in just about any way it gets into your system, though ingesting (eating) it is about the least dangerous way. Injecting or inhaling requires about a thousand times less ricin to kill a human than ingesting, and that’s a very small amount indeed. An average adult needs only 1.78mg of ricin injected or inhaled to die; that’s about the size of a few grains of table salt–which ricin resembles visually.

    How does it work?
    Ricin, a toxic protein, infects cells, blocking their ability to synthesize their own protein. Without cells making protein, key functions in the body shut down; even in survivors, permanent organ damage is often the result of ricin poisoning. It’s a highly unpleasant way to be poisoned: within six hours, according to the Center for Disease Control, victims who have ingested ricin will feel gastrointestinal effects like severe vomiting and diarrhea, which can lead to serious dehydration. Then the ricin infects the cells of the vital gastrointestinal organs as they pass through the body, leading to the failure of the kidneys, liver, and pancreas.

    Inhalation of ricin has a different effect, since the ricin proteins aren’t interacting with the same parts of the body. Instead of gastrointestinal problems, you’ll develop a vicious, bloody cough, your lungs will fill with fluid, and eventually you’ll lose your ability to breathe, causing death. Injection, too, is different, depending on where you’ve been injected, but will generally result in vomiting and flu-like symptoms, swelling around the place of injection, and eventually organ failure as your circulatory system passes the protein around the body. Death from inhalation or injection usually occurs about three to five miserable, agonizing days after contact.

    Interestingly, there aren’t any immediate symptoms, and indeed there can be a significant delay before symptoms show themselves, up to a day or two.

    Exposure on the skin is generally not fatal, though it may cause a reaction that can range from irritation to blistering.

    That sounds…horrible. Is there an antidote, at least?
    Haha. No. The US and UK governments have been working on an antidote for decades–here’s a nice article describing the progression of one such antidote–but there isn’t one available to the public. The CDC’s website states bluntly, “There is no antidote for ricin toxicity.” There are some steps you can take if you get to a hospital immediately; for ingestion, a stomach pump can sometimes prevent the ricin from reaching the rest of the gastrointestinal system at its full force. But…that’s about it, really.

    How does it stack up against other poisons?
    Well, that depends on what your aim is. Ricin is much easier to produce than other popular biological weapons like botulinum, sarin, and anthrax, but it is not as potent as any of those, which limits its effectiveness as a weapon. It also is not very long-lived; the protein can age and become inactive fairly quickly compared to, say, anthrax, which can remain dangerous for decades. There were experiments back around World War I attempting to make wide-scale ricin weapons, packaging it into bombs and coating bullets in it, but these proved not particularly effective and also violate the Hague Convention’s agreements on war crimes, so the US discarded ricin.

    It’s much more effective, weapon-wise, as a close-contact, small-target weapon–by injecting, as with Georgi Markov, or by putting small particles into an aerosol spray and blasting a target. It’s also not contagious, which limits its effectiveness as a tool of biological warfare. But it’s considered highly dangerous partly because it’s still outrageously toxic and partly because it takes no great skill to produce.

    So it’s not hard to make?
    Well…no. Like, not at all. It’s made from the byproduct of the castor oil manufacturing process. You take the “mash” of the castor oil seeds, which contain around 5-10 percent ricin, and perform a process called chromatography. Chromatography is a blanket term for a set of techniques used to separate mixtures, usually by dissolving in liquid or gas. The US government has done its best to eradicate recipes for ricin from the internet, sort of; a patent was filed back in 1962 for ricin extraction, and the Patent Office took it off the publicly available server in 2004 for safety reasons. That said, the recipe is super easy to find; here at the PopSci offices, I’m blocked from listening to Rdio on my work computer, but I found a recipe to make an outrageously deadly poison in about a minute.

    The techniques involved are undergraduate-level chemistry, creating a slurry with the castor bean mash and filtering with water and then a few easily-found substances like hydrochloric acid.

    It comes from castor beans?
    Ricin is a highly toxic protein that’s extracted from the seed of the castor plant, often called a “castor bean” or “castor oil bean,” despite not technically being a bean. The castor plant is extremely common; it’s used as an ornamental plant throughout the western world, prized for its ability to grow basically anywhere as well as its pretty, spiky leaves and weird spiny fruits. It’s also an important crop; the seeds are full of oil, and castor oil is used for lots of legitimate purposes. It’s a common laxative, for one thing, and since it’s more resistant to high temperatures than other kinds of vegetable oils, it’s a nice alternative to petroleum oil in engines.

    Wait, but you can eat it? So how is this a poison?
    Ah, yes. Castor oil is perfectly safe, according to the FDA and your grandma, but ricin is not castor oil. Castor seeds are still poisonous; this study says that a lethal dose of castor seeds for adults is about four to eight seeds. But the oil itself does not contain ricin; the ricin protein is left behind in the “castor bean mash” after the oil is extracted from the seed. Poisoning from eating the seed itself is rare.

    Have there been cases of ricin poisoning in the past?
    You mean, beyond the several times it’s been featured as a major plot point in Breaking Bad? Sure! The most famous is probably the assassination of Georgi Markov in 1978. Markov was a Bulgarian novelist, playwright, journalist, and dissident, and was murdered by the Bulgarian secret service, with assistance from the KGB, by ricin injection. He was crossing a bridge when he was jabbed in the leg with an umbrella, which delivered a ricin pellet into his bloodstream. He died three days later of ricin poisoning.

    There are plenty of incidents of people arrested for attempting (or, more often, succeeding) to make ricin; it’s a pretty easy poison to make. In fact, there was even another ricin-in-the-envelope attempt made back in 2003–a person identifying as “Fallen Angel” sent letters filled with ricin to the White House, apparently as a result of some new trucking regulations (seriously). “Fallen Angel” was never found, but the letters were intercepted and did not cause any injury.

    How dangerous are these envelopes filled with ricin?
    The envelope strategy has more to do with potential ease of getting the poison close to targets than its strength as a delivery system. If you’re targeting the President of the United States, it’s easier and more anonymous to mail a letter than to try to get close to him with an umbrella modified for ricin-stabbing. But it’s not a great way to poison someone with ricin. Assuming the letter actually got into the target’s hands, of the three ways ricin can get into a person’s system (inhalation, injection, ingestion), only one–inhalation–is really possible, and it’s not that likely.

    Inhalation as a weapon is best accomplished through a mist, ideally delivered through an aerosol. But that’s not possible in a letter full of powder. It’s possible that small granules of ricin could be released into the air and inhaled when handling the letter, but it is not an effective way to poison someone. And whoever’s sending these letters evidently doesn’t know that the government set up an elaborate mail-screening system after the 2001 Anthrax scare.

        

  • Mystery Animal Contest: Who Is This Fuzzy Sniffler?
    Guess the species (either common or Linnaean) by tweeting at us–we’re @PopSci–and get your name listed right here! Plus eternal glory, obviously. Update: We have a winner!

    So, here are the rules: To answer, follow us on Twitter and tweet at us with the hashtag #mysteryanimal. For example:

    Hey @PopSci, is the #mysteryanimal a baboon?

    And then I might say “if you think that’s a baboon, perhaps you are the baboon!” But probably not, because this is a positive environment and all guesses are welcome and also this is not a very common animal so guess whatever you want!

    The first person to get it right wins! We’ll retweet the answer from @PopSci, and also update this post so your amazing animal knowledge will be permanently etched onto the internet. Show your kids! Your dumb kids who thought that was a baboon!

    Update: And the winner is…Logan Copeman, who correctly guessed that this is a viscacha (Lagidium viscacia, also spelled vizcacha)! Specifically, this is a southern or mountain viscacha, a rodent found in South America. Yep, rodent: the viscacha is not related to the rabbit family, though it looks similar; the rabbit belongs to an entirely different branch of the evolutionary tree, and the fact that the viscacha looks so much like a rabbit is an example of convergent evolution. Convergent evolution describes when two species not closely related end up adapting to their environments in the same way.

    The viscacha lives in the southern Andes mountains, and is closely related to the chinchilla. It’s sometimes known as a long-tailed rabbit, thanks to its long ears and fluffy coat. It moves similarly to a rabbit, on very strong hind legs, hopping around its mountain home to eat a variety of grasses, mosses, and lichens. It lives in colonies, like all members of the chinchilla family, which can widely range in size. It’s not particularly rare; it is sometimes hunted for its meat and fur, but is believed to be holding steady, population-wise. Hi viscacha!

        

  • EuropaCity Is The Ultra-Green Mall Of The Future
    EuropaCity BIG
    Imagine a mall. Now imagine a mall in the year 2150.

    The design firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), along with a few added team members (Tess, Transsolar, Base, Transitec, and Michel Forgue) have won first place in a competition to design an experimental “urban center” in France called EuropaCity. Located in Île-de-France, the wealthiest and most populous region in France, EuropaCity is intended to be a center of culture and retail, combining all sorts of experimental sustainable technologies.

    But as a design–and a pretty spectacular one at that–it’s best experienced through images. Click through to the gallery to see and read more about the proposal!

    Click to launch the gallery.

        

  • Nanosponges In Your Blood Could Soak Up Infections And Poison
    Nanosponge Engineers at the University of California, San Diego have invented a “nanosponge” capable of safely removing a broad class of toxins from the bloodstream, including toxins produced by MRSA, E. Coli, poisonous snakes and bees. The nanosponges are made of a biocompatible polymer core wrapped in a natural red blood cell membrane. Zhang Research Lab
    Mice who got nanosponge injections survived lethal doses of toxins.

    A newly invented “nanosponge,” sheathed in armor made of red blood cells, can safely remove a wide range of toxins from the bloodstream. Scientists at the University of California-San Diego inoculated some mice with their nanosponge, and then gave the animals otherwise lethal doses of a toxin–and the mice survived.

    This is especially interesting because a nanosponge can work on entire classes of toxins. Most antidotes or treatments against venom, bioweapons or bacteria are targeted to counteract a specific molecular structure, so they can’t be a one-size-fits-all solution; this nanosponge can.

    Scientists led by Liangfang Zhang, a nanoengineering professor at UCSD, worked with a class of proteins known as pore-forming toxins, which work just the way they sound: By ripping a hole in a cell membrane. These toxins are found in snake venom, sea anemones, and even bacteria like the dreaded drug-resistant Staph aureus. The proteins come in many different shapes and sizes, but they all work in a similar way.

    They designed a nanosponge to soak up any type of pore-forming toxins. It consists of a tiny (85-nanometer) plastic ball wrapped in red blood cell membranes, which basically serve as a decoy and soak up the poison. The plastic ball holds everything together, and keeps the protein away from its real cellular targets. The entire nanosponge is 3,000 times smaller than a full red blood cell. The devices had a half-life of about 40 hours when the team tested them on lab mice, according to a release from UCSD.

    They injected mice with 70 times as many toxic proteins as nanosponges, and the sponges still neutralized the poison and caused no visible damage to the animals, the team reports. Next up are clinical trials in animals, to verify that it works safely in a wide range of cases.

    The paper is in this week’s issue of Nature Nanotechnology.

        

  • Wearing A Kilt Could Make Your Sperm Stronger
    Temperature regulation is the key to fertility.

    Temperature affects how much sperm a man makes, so there’s been speculation that the freedom offered by a kilt can increase production. Turns out that that at least could be right: a new metastudy says wearing a kilt “likely produces an ideal physiological scrotal environment, which in turn helps maintain normal scrotal temperature, which is known to be beneficial for robust spermatogenesis and good sperm quality.”

    The study (PDF), published in the Scottish Medical Journal, reviewed the literature on the link between scrotal temperature and reproduction. We know sperm fares better in lower temperatures, and some researchers have suggested that restrictive clothing could negatively affect sperm production. Enter: the kilt, which author Erwin J.O. Kompanje describes thusly: “The Scottish kilt is a male garment that resembles (but is not!) a knee-length, pleated skirt.”

    The author hypothesizes that, based on past findings about temperature and sperm production, a kilt, specifically one worn in the undergarment-free “regimental” style, would be an ideal environment for sperm production. Kompanje searched through related research, focusing on statistics in Scotland and noting along the way that 70 percent of kilt-wearers choose to go regimental. Kilts (at least in Scotland or other countries where they’re more commonly worn) might also be psychologically valuable, increasing feelings of masculinity when worn. Kompanje goes so far as to write that a downturn in Scottish fertility is correlated with the frequency of kilts being worn, although he admits it’s still somewhat speculative until a randomized trial happens. Gentlemen, put on your kilts for science.

        

  • We Could Eat Trees: Scientists Turn Inedible Plant Cellulose Into Starchy Snack
    Turning plant byproducts into digestible carbs could feed more people.

    Someday, it will be be summer again and it will be time for fresh sweet corn. In the future, you might be able to eat the whole thing, cob and all.

    This weird possibility is courtesy of some scientists at Virginia Tech, who have transformed cellulose, a mostly indigestible polymer, into helpful, indispensable starch.

    Plants produce cellulose and starch, which are chemically similar, for very different purposes. Cellulose forms the cell walls of most plants, algae and even some bacteria, and we use it for anything from clothing (cotton is almost all cellulose) to paper to ethanol. Starch is a plant’s energy source, and it’s ours, too, in the form of tasty things like potatoes, wheat and corn. The difference between the two is a simple change in the hydrogen bonds that form the molecules.

    Animals like cows and pigs can digest cellulose thanks to symbiotic bacteria in their digestive tracts, but humans can’t. It’s important in our diets as source of fiber, in that it binds together waste in our digestive tracts. Y.H. Percival Zhang, an associate professor of biological systems engineering at Virginia Tech, set out to make it a food source.

    Since cellulose and amylose are both glucose chains, you would just have to rearrange their hydrogen bonds. This is anything but simple, although essentially Zhang and colleagues used chemistry. They worked with a series of synthetic enzymes to break down the hydrogen bonds in some plant material that would not otherwise be used for food, like corn cobs and leaves. The “enzyme cascade” enabled the cellulose molecules to reconfigure into amylose, which is a form of starch. A key ingredient in this process, a special polypeptide cap, is found in potatoes.

    The resulting product is not exactly the future of bread flour, but it can be used as a fiber source, or food-safe biodegradable packaging, perhaps. The remaining portion of the original material was treated with microbes to produce a form of glucose that can then be used for ethanol. The whole process didn’t require any unusual heat or chemical reagents, other than the enzymes themselves, so it would be easy to reproduce on larger scales, Zhang and his colleagues say.

    Cellulose is the most common carbohydrate–indeed the most common organic material–on the planet, so using it for food could be a superb way to feed millions of people, they argue.

    “There is an urgent need to use abundant and renewable nonfood agricultural and forest residues and dedicated bioenergy crops that can grow on marginal land and require low inputs,” they write. The paper appears this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

        

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Human Trafficking and the Human Rights Agenda Against Eritrea (Part 1)

Posted on 18 March 2013 by Africa Business

By Simon Tesfamariam

Human Trafficking and the Human Rights Agenda Against (Final) (.pdf Acrobat Reader)

Introduction

On March 1, 2013, Joel Millman of the Wall Street Journal published a piece entitled “Ruthless Kidnapping Rings Reach From Desert Sands to U.S. Cities.” The article chronicles the touching personal accounts of Eritrean refugees being kidnapped and taken for ransom in Egypt’s Sinai desert. As disheartening as this piece may be to even the most apathetic observers, Eritreans are growing increasingly aware of the fact that similar articles highlighting the trafficking of Eritreans are becoming a regular occurrence. Although human trafficking, smuggling, and migration have been longstanding problems that have plagued the so-called developing world, it seems somewhat curious that Eritrea is suddenly getting the brunt of the international attention. Why now? Although increased international attention may be positive in that it sheds needed light on the plight of the affected migrants, the reality is that pieces like this are often politically motivated, lacking context, skewing the facts on the ground, and serving as part of larger campaign to vilify and isolate Eritrea.

Before we delve into this whole human trafficking ordeal, we must note that Eritrea was the target of UN sanctions in 2009. Since then, the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG) has been regularly reporting on Eritrea’s role in Somalia to the Security Council. The group has made many ridiculous claims ranging from Eritrea’s alleged support of al-Shabab in Somalia to a failed bombing attempt on an African Union summit in Ethiopia. Both accusations were later shown to be false [1, 2]. As the last SEMG report reveals, linking Eritrea to terrorism is a futile task. [3] The expectations of the nation seem like a moving target and now the new focus of the international media and the SEMG is on Eritrea’s “use of revenues from the taxation of Eritrean citizens in the diaspora, from human trafficking of refugees through Sudan and Egypt, and from gold mining.” [4] The emerging concerns regarding a sovereign state’s use of its revenues from any legitimate source–be it from a diaspora tax or gold mining or whatever–is a mystery unworthy of pursuit. The human trafficking issue, however, is a serious allegation that may be used in conjunction with broader human rights allegations to build a case for the expansion of UN sanctions on Eritrea. Thus, the issue requires further inspection.

In a speech regarding human trafficking delivered at the Clinton Global Initiative on September 25 of last year, President Obama made the following remarks:

I recently renewed sanctions on some of the worst abusers, including North Korea and Eritrea.  We’re partnering with groups that help women and children escape from the grip of their abusers.  We’re helping other countries step up their own efforts.  And we’re seeing results.  More nations have passed and more are enforcing modern anti-trafficking laws. [5]

What kind of “partnering” is he talking about, exactly? It’s not within the US’s authority or obligations to help people escape from a nation. To do so would be human smuggling. President Obama is essentially admitting to taking part in smuggling people out of Eritrea and North Korea. The US can only support those who take refuge in the US following immigration from another nation. The president’s comments came as surprise to many Eritreans.

About one month later, Eritrea’s presidential advisor, Yemane Gebreab, explained that “Eritrea is a victim of human trafficking” and that “for a number of years now, some people have felt that one way that they could weaken Eritrea would be by encouraging Eritrean youths to leave the country in larger numbers.” [6] Are his claims valid? Is there a systematic effort to drive youth out of Eritrea?

Linking Eritrea to Human Trafficking

Let us rewind to May 5, 2009. In a wikileaked diplomatic cable entitled “Promoting Educational Opportunity for Anti-Regime Eritrean Youth,” the then US Ambassador to Eritrea, Ronald K. McMullen explained that “Post plans to restart visa services (completely suspended in 2007) for student visa applicants; we intend to give opportunities to study in the United States to those who oppose the regime.” [7] He then goes on:

Post intends to begin adjudicating student visa applications, regardless of whether the regime is willing to issue the applicant an Eritrean passport and exit visa. If an applicant is otherwise found eligible for a student visa, Post will issue it in a Form DS-232…With an Eritrean passport and an F1 visa in a Form DS-232, the lucky young person is off to America. For those visa recipients who manage to leave the country and receive UNHCR refugee status, a UN-authorized travel document might allow the young person to travel to America with his or her F1 in the DS-232.

…Due to the Isaias regime´s ongoing restrictions on Embassy Asmara, Post does not contemplate a resumption of full visa services in the near future. However, giving young Eritreans hope, the chance for an education, and the skills with which to rebuild their impoverished country in the post-Isaias period is one of the strongest signals we can send to the Eritrean people that the United States has not abandoned them. Were we to begin processing student visa applications and require a regime-issued passport, we would be seen as strengthening the dictatorship´s hand. Thus, the limited category-specific exemption outlined above is key.

The cable’s title alone, reveals the ambassador’s intentions. And if one wonders why brain drain is an issue in the developing world, perhaps this cable may provide some insight. What young person, anywhere in the world, wouldn’t want a chance to come to the US? Though the more important question is, why now? Why restart issuing visas in 2009 after a two year suspension? Perhaps the answers will become clear shortly. McMullen, who clearly seeks to weaken the Eritrean “regime” (as in “government we don’t like”), also makes curious mention of preparing for a “post-Isaias period,” which becomes more interesting when one considers that his doctoral thesis at the University of Iowa was on the “Economic Consequences of African Coups D’etat.” [8] He also served as the Charge’ d’Affaires in the Fiji Islands during the 2000 coup d’etat. In another leaked cable he predicted the Eritrean government is ‘‘one bullet away from implosion’’ and posed that “any sudden change in government is likely to be initiated from within the military.” [9] McMullen is no longer the ambassador but in light of the recently fabricated “coup” rumor that the international mainstream media has been recklessly trumpeting,  [10] perhaps the US sent McMullen to make use of his expertise. As Rafael Correa once jokingly stated, “the only country that can be sure never to have a coup d’état is the United States because it hasn’t got a U.S. Embassy.”

While on the one hand secretly promoting Eritrean youth migration, the US administration was simultaneously taking actions against Eritrea for not doing enough to stop it. One month after McMullen’s cable announcing the secret restart of F1 visa processing, in violation of the basic tenets of consular relations, the US Administration suddenly classified Eritrea as a “Tier 3″ nation in the US State Department’s June 2009 “Trafficking in Persons Report.” [11] Keep in mind that Eritrea didn’t even make the list in 2008 and, unlike other nations that started off with Tier 1 and 2 warnings, Eritrea jumped straight to Tier 3. The entire reasoning behind doing this is that it allows trafficking nations to meet the “minimum standards” by the following year. [12] As a result of this unprecedented move, President Obama added Eritrea and 5 other African countries to a blacklist that would subject them “to the trafficking sanctions, which can include a ban on non-humanitarian and trade-related aid and U.S. opposition to loans and credits from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.” [13]

What did the report say about Eritrea, exactly? In essence it stated that Eritrea was a “source country” for human trafficking and that it didn’t do enough to prevent the practice. That could apply to almost every nation on the planet. Notably, the report focused more on “large numbers of migrant workers” and made almost passing mention of the Eritrean government being “complicit in conscripting children into military service.” In spite of no significant policy changes to the Eritrean national service program, subsequent reports, which are released annually, focused less on the “migrant workers” and increasingly more on the “conscripts,” “adolescent children” being sent to Sawa, and “child laborers.” More on this later.

Following the TIP report, US ambassador McMullen’s writes in an August 26, 2009 leaked diplomatic cable about a young unnamed Eritrean “who is preparing to flee the country” and supposedly confesses the intricate details of his escape plan. [14] McMullen writes that he will “use one of the Eritrean National Security Officers (ENSO), who he claimed to be the ringleaders in smuggling of Eritreans to the Sudan border” and “he stated the cost at 80,000 nakfa.” This is the first time we see official US documentation of claims that Eritrean government officials are directly involved in the smuggling of citizens outside the country. This is despite the fact that about a year earlier the Chargé d’Affaires, Matthew D. Smith, confessed in another leaked diplomatic cable entitled “How To Escape From Eritrea” that “the GSE [Government of the State of Eritrea] is very keen to break these human smuggling rings and dispatches agents to pose as potential customers. Other agents pose as facilitators, making all of the supposed smuggling arrangements prior to having the unsuspecting person arrested.” [15]

In spite of the Eritrean government’s efforts to combat smuggling, the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG) produced a report in 2011 that expanded on McMullen’s claims. The report states:

421. The well-documented exodus of young Eritreans to escape poverty or obligatory “national service” represents yet another opportunity for corruption and illicit revenue. People smuggling is so pervasive that it could not be possible without the complicity of Government and party officials, especially military officers working in the western border zone, which is headed by General Teklai Kifle “Manjus”. Multiple sources have described to the Monitoring Group how Eritrean officials collaborate with ethnic Rashaida smugglers to move their human cargo through the Sudan into Egypt and beyond. This is in most respects the same network involved in smuggling weapons through to Sinai and into Gaza.

422. According to former Eritrean military officials and international human rights activists, military officers involved in the practice charge roughly $3,000 a head for each person exiting Eritrea.

…The Monitoring Group has obtained details of a Swiss bank account into which the proceeds from smuggling have been deposited and has provided the Swiss authorities with information related to this account, together with the personal and contact details of the Swiss-based coordinator of this trafficking ring and details of the coordinator’s Egypt-based associates. [16]

For the SEMG’s extraordinary claims it cites as its only sources an “interview with Eritrean individuals directly involved in people smuggling operations” and an “interview with Eritrean source, Switzerland, March 2011.” In the 2012 follow-up report, the SEMG repeats the same human trafficking claims, citing no sources as evidence. “The trafficking of arms and people is managed by the same networks using the same vehicles, and the same Eritrean officials are implicated,” the report states. The SEMG then claims to have acquired 1,300 testimonies of which “61 were from Eritreans who identified the names of Rashaida smugglers.” Artfully interweaving groups of similar testimonies as vignettes, the report attempts to illustrate the validity of earlier claims made by the SEMG. Finally, it shows photos of body wounds of two unnamed and faceless torture victims. The annex is only 3 pages long, filled with photos, and has nothing to do with human trafficking allegations.

After reading both reports, one is left scratching their head. That’s it? No real people’s names? No bank account numbers? No photos of human traffickers? Where is the hard evidence? Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. To put things in perspective, imagine a man is brought to trial on charges of torture and the prosecuting team presents the following as their “evidence” against him:

1. Claims against him by unnamed interviewers with no transcripts for the court to review

2. Pictures of unnamed and faceless victims he allegedly tortured

3. 61 snippets of testimonies by the nameless victims who he allegedly tortured

4. Claims against him by people who openly call themselves his “opposition“

5. Claims against him by one of his former torturer buddies, who is unnamed

The defendant then demands access to the evidence and witnesses for cross-examination but his request is denied. Based on the information, he is then found guilty and expected to accept his sentence. Would that be justice? Of course not. However, this is exactly what Eritrea has had to face regularly in regards to the UN Security Council and SEMG reports. This system of international law requires incredible trust in the prosecutors–the SEMG, in this case–who Eritrea had no say in appointing. And if we think that the SEMG is actually a committee of independent experts as opposed to a prosecuting team, then why would the head of the SEMG, Matt Bryden, say “we’re trying to make the case that any improvement in Eritrea’s conduct is the result of sanctions, and that it’s too early to lift them because of the other violations they have committed”? [17] In essence, he’s saying ‘yeah, I know we couldn’t find evidence that they support terrorism but please keep the sanctions because of this new human trafficking ordeal.’ In other words he is prosecuting and making a case against Eritrea and, unfortunately, it’s completely within his mandate to share his opinion [18]. That’s UN justice for you. The SEMG’s “evidence” would be considered a joke if wasn’t so serious. According to the UNSC, the successful implementation of “targeted sanctions” on any nation is premised on the expectations that the “panel of experts” will uphold the highest standards of evidence, which is the key tenet of the 2003 Stockholm Process. In this regard, the 2003 UNSC states:

While recognizing that it might sometimes be necessary to uphold the confidentiality of sources of information available to expert panels or monitoring groups regarding sanctions busting or non-compliance, the Stockholm paper notes that the credibility of the findings and the integrity of the process required that evidence be as transparent and verifiable as possible….sanctions should be based on concrete evidence of violations of international law or Council obligations, and not based on presumptions, media reports or motivated allegations. [19]

The SEMG report clearly falls short. To make matters worse, Eritrea doesn’t get to comment or defend itself at any point in the process because according to the SEMG, which unprofessionally leaked the report to the media before Eritrea could see it, [20] “the Government of Eritrea failed to provide responses to any Monitoring Group correspondence and declined to grant the repeated requests.” How convenient. Where have we seen this sort of tactic before? For years, the world has been unable to hear Eritrea’s side of the story:

A. On the Kenyan defections: “Eritrean officials were unavailable for comment on Tuesday.” [21]

B. On Eritrea’s alleged bombing of the AU (proved false by WikiLeaks [22]): “Eritrean officials were unavailable for comment on Tuesday.” [23]

C. On claims of human trafficking: “Eritrean government…did not respond to requests to provide information for this report.” [24]

D. On relations with the US: “It has been difficult to talk to Eritrea frankly. We have had trouble getting them to talk to us. I sent the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs to talk with Mr. Isaias and he didn’t see her.” [25]

E. On breakdown of US-Eritrea relations: “Eritrean officials were not immediately available to comment on the decision” [26]

The list goes on and on, ad infintum. The point is that Eritrea is not allowed to defend itself in court, in the media, in reports, or anywhere in the international arena. It’s no surprise that Eritrea is so misunderstood by the world. In contrast, the darlings of the mainstream media, the US and Ethiopia, were also accused of violating the Somali arms embargo by the former Somalia monitoring groups yet we saw no prosecution by the UNSC. Is this justice? No way! In the words of Gerald Celente, it’s “just-us” and unfortunately Eritrea isn’t one of “them.”

Following the SEMG report, the UNHCR released a report in November 2012 entitled “Refugees and the Rashaida: human smuggling and trafficking from Eritrea to Sudan and Egypt.” [27] The document states that “it has come to light that some members of the military and Eritrean Government are complicit in smuggling” and it references the 2012 SEMG report. It talks about General Teklai Kifle, adding no new information, and then goes on at length about the Rashaida ethnic group’s involvement in the human trafficking business. In regards to both of them, “it is thought there are varying levels of experience and organization within the groups of Rashaida who engage in taking Eritreans to Sinai. However other networks, such as those organized by some members of the Eritrean Government for smuggling arms are highly organized.” In other words, the government is the syndicate–the major player. What’s interesting about this particular report is the divisive new ethnic and regional dimension it seems to take:

There is a marked difference between the majority of the refugee population and those now leaving Eritrea. Those now leaving the country are young, Christian, Tigrinya from urban areas. Much like young Sudan-born refugees, the new arrivals are generally unwilling to remain in an enclosed camp setting without access to higher education or employment.

…Eritrean brokers are key to arranging onward movement with Rashaida from within the camp. The facilitators in the route are usually of the same ethnicity as those embarking on the movement (Hamood 2006: 50). Furthermore, life in the refugee camp is characterized by ethnic divides. Different ethnicities are thought to have different aspirations. One testimony states that people from Akele-Guzai region are thought to have strong connections abroad and to be most likely going to Israel. Those from Maekel region are believed to be going to Europe, while those from Gash Barka are simply associated with smuggling people out of Eritrea and settling in Sudan (Mehari 2010).

Turning to the reference section to investigate the source of the aforementioned claims, the report cites an “unpublished paper” by someone named “Mehari, K” (Mehari, K. 2010. ‘Desert in Disorder’ unpublished paper). Investigating the rest  of the citations for follow-up is a futile task as most references are made to personal interviews with individuals like Meron Estifanos, who was integral in propagating the fabricated “coup” in January 2013 and using it as a springboard for the so-called “Forto 2013″ campaign. [28]

Returning to the latest publication of the US State Department TIP report, we hear echoes of the SEMG’s allegations of corruption by senior Eritrean army officers. As opposed to the 2009 report, the 2012 publication is focused less on migrants workers more on youth conscripted into national service. More notably, the report seems to focus on the Eritrean government’s alleged conscription of minors. It states that “adolescent children that attempt to leave Eritrea have been forced into military service despite being younger than the minimum service age of 18. As part of the requirements to complete their senior year of high school, adolescent children are also sent to Sawa, Eritrea’s military academy, prior to their eighteenth birthday.” Surprisingly, this claim was later cited by Child Soldiers International in a 2012 case study to support the claim that Eritrea uses child soldiers. This “study” was, in turn, posted on the UNHCR website and is currently being used by journalists and various NGO’s to propagate the notion that Eritrea’s use of “child soldiers” is driving youth out of the country.

Nowhere is the international media’s desperation to point out the Eritrean government’s blunders more evident than in its claim that Eritrea uses “child soldiers.” When the average person reads about child soldiers in Africa, she/he may conjure up the classical CNN-promoted image of regime-indoctrinated 9 year-olds mowing down civilians. Perhaps the image is sometimes a wee bit less graphic but the reality is that the claims of child soldiers in Africa perpetuates the stereotype of a barbaric Africa out of control and encourages intervention against nations like Eritrea. Thus, such claims must be taken seriously. In regards to their Eritrea study, Child Soldiers International states the following:

To prevent increasing evasion of national service by school leavers, the government announced in 2003 that the final year of secondary education, Year 12, must be performed at the Sawa Military Training Camp in western Eritrea near the border with Sudan. Because the Year 12 designation is based not on a child’s age but rather on the school grade achieved, some Year 12 students are under 18 years old. According to a recent US State Department report on human rights in Eritrea, “Students at Sawa were typically 18 years old or older, although a fair percentage were as young as 16 years old”.

The government denies underage conscription and argues that students attending the twelfth grade in Sawa should not be confused with national service conscripts. However, the Year 12 students at Sawa have military status and are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defence and subject to military discipline. They are therefore in reality soldiers, even if not fully operational members of the Eritrean National Army. [29]

The sad part about this is that the “Eritrea recruits child soldiers” claim is entirely based on this hair splitting of mandatory twelfth grade education. Such reporting is irresponsible for two reasons. Firstly, this report is based on non-independent politically biased sources like the US State Department. Secondly, even if 16-year-olds attended Sawa they are not considered members of the Eritrean National Army, as CSI even admits. Consideration should also be given to the fact that while most of the world submits to more lax standards on child soldier laws enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Africa has collectively gone above and beyond by signing the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, which by default accedes to the “Optional Protocols” of the CRC and increases the minimum military recruitment age from 15 to 18. [30] Given these more stringent laws and the known fact that most reported child soldiers are between ages 15-18 years old, it’s no surprise that half of the world’s child soldiers are in Africa. [31] Regardless of the facts, the media is quick dish out the child soldier label in Africa. There’s a reason why the spineless international media points out “child soldiers” in Eritrea while it ignores “child soldiers” in the UK, which is also a signatory to the Option Protocols and refers to the exact same argument as Eritrea. [32] Let us also refresh the UN’s memory and recall that in 2002, the UNSC Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, visited Eritrea to assess the use of child soldiers. He concluded that there was “no systematic use of child soldiers” and said that “the absence of the ‘child soldiering’ phenomenon was particularly impressive since no other conflict zone he had visited recently had been free of the problem.” [33]

As shown above, there seems to be a concerted effort to link Eritrea to human trafficking. The reality is that we have yet to see any hard evidence to support this allegation. To make matters worse the international press almost reflexively blames it on child soldiers, forced labor, and lack of [insert word like freedom, democracy, religion, or other's words used to destroy Iraq, Libya, etc.]. As some of the wikileaked diplomatic cables suggest, the US State Department has made efforts to drive youth out of Eritrea to weaken the government. It then turns around and blames the Eritrean government for “human trafficking.” These actions are part of a broader concerted and systematic effort by the US Administration to destroy Eritrea through the control of human migration. To understand this we must go back in history.

Part 2: http://africabusiness.com/2013/03/18/human-trafficking-and-the-human-rights-agenda-against-eritrea-part-2/

Part 3: http://africabusiness.com/2013/03/18/human-trafficking-and-the-human-rights-agenda-against-eritrea-part-3/

 

References

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60. http://www.ice.gov/news/library/factsheets/human-trafficking.htm

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68. http://2001-2009.state.gov/documents/organization/74762.pdf

69. http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/181378.pdf

70. http://allafrica.com/stories/201303130930.html

71. http://www.hrw.org/news/2011/11/15/egypt-don-t-deport-eritreans

72. http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article25120

73. http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country,,USCRI,,AGO,,485f50c0c,0.html

74. “Tanzania rejects asylum request by Eritrean footballers.” Panapress. Oct 13, 2011.

75. http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/198157.pdf

76. “Eritrea asks Israel to deport ‘deserters.’” Ravid, Barak. Ha’aretz. March 25, 2008.

77. “Israel detains Eritrean refugee for 18 months because he couldn’t prove his identity.” Weiler-Polak, Dana. Ha’aretz. May 24, 2011.

78. “Eritreans turned down for asylum after Ethiopia claims refugees as their own” Nesher, Talila. Ha’aretz. October 24, 2011.  link

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80. “52% of Jewish Israelis say illegal African migrants a ‘cancer.” LA Times. June 8, 2012.

81. http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/features/closing-the-holes-and-the-loopholes-1.278503

82. http://www.inn.co.il/News/News.aspx/229304

83. “Closing the holes and the loopholes.” Wuraft, Nurit. Ha‘aretz.  June 21, 2009. link

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85. “Former Miss Ethiopia unlawfully held by British immigration.” Daily Telegraph. June 16, 2009.

86. http://www.thestar.com/news/crime/2012/10/24/cabbagetown_murder_stabbing_victim_was_a_married_mother_of_4_from_eritrea.html

87. Re-blogged link: http://tedalo.blogspot.com/2012/10/by-sam-b.html

88. http://www.torontosun.com/2012/10/26/police-keeping-open-mind-in-cabbagetown-murder

89. Re-blogged link: http://tedalo.blogspot.com/2012/10/by-sam-b.html

90. http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/steve_duin/index.ssf/2012/10/steve_duin_the_endless_hours_o.html

91. “Swedish Resident Charged with Terrorism in US Court.” Radio Sweden. March 10, 2010. Re-published link

92. http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/13/justice/new-york-al-shabaab

93. http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/03/04/ethiopias-anti-apartheid-movement/

94. http://www.dni.gov/index.php/about/organization/national-intelligence-council-global-trends

95. http://www.unhcr.org/4ce531e09.pdf

96. http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr/resource/fiscal-year-2012-refugee-arrivals

97. http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article18939

98. “Tanzania rejects asylum request by Eritrean footballers.” Pana Press. Oct 13, 2011. link

99. “East African soccer team players defect, settle in Houston.” Susan Carroll. Houston Chronicle. May 23, 2012. link

100. http://www.state.gov/j/prm/ra/c49034.htm

101. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/239914

102. “Tanzania rejects asylum request by Eritrean footballers.” Pana Press. Oct 13, 2011. link

103. http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/wire?section=soccer&id=4747830

104. http://www.unhcr.org/49ba623f2.html

105. http://www.unhcr.org/4daef2e39.html

106. http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/181378.pdf

107. http://www.unhcr.org/print/4daef2e39.html

108. “Eritrea and European Community: Country Strategy Paper And National Indicative Programme For the period 2009-2013.” Global Forum on Migration and Development. Pg. 59. 2009. link

109. “Eritrean president appears to quash death rumour.” Agence France Presse. April 28, 2012. link

110. http://awate.com/the-unusual-absence-of-isaias-afwerki/

111. http://redseafisher.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/the-eritrean-coup-that-never-was/

112. http://asmarino.com/press-releases/1664-ms-elizabeth-chyrum-and-professor-dan-connel-in-boston

113. http://asmarino.com/press-releases/1663-statement-from-icer-the-president-of-eritreas-letter-on-human-trafficking-to-the-secretary-general-of-the-un33

114. http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session21/A.HRC.RES.21.1.doc

115. http://www.hrea.org/index.php?doc_id=437

116. http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=12608&LangID=E

117. http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43831&Cr=Eritrea&Cr1#.UT6MlVeNASg

118. ibid.

119. http://asmarino.com/editorial/1609-elizabeth-elsa-chyrum-a-woman-of-the-year-2012b

120. Letter dated February 2008. “Re: Presidency of the UN Human Rights Council” link

121. Letter dated March 31, 2010. “Re: May 2010 UN Human Rights Council elections” link

122. http://www.un.org/en/ga/67/meetings/elections/hrc.shtml

123. http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/07/13/au-don-t-endorse-sudan-ethiopia-rights-council

124. http://www.un.org/en/ga/67/meetings/elections/hrc.shtml

125. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/31/AR2009033104115.html

126. www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session20/A.HRC.20.L.15_en.doc

127. http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/st/english/texttrans/2012/07/201207128920.html#ixzz2NMWKQXXz

128. http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2012/ecosoc6493.doc.htm

129. http://www.defenddefenders.org/2012/12/end-of-year-message-from-ehahrdps-executive-director/

130. http://hrc-eritrea.org/?p=467

131. http://youtu.be/mHrwa1rU2Nk

132. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hozKaSQy1bs

133. http://www.armytimes.com/news/2012/12/ap-army-africa-brigade-train-anti-terror-teams-122412/

134. http://www.thelocal.se/46402/20130226/#.USyo2mft8wx

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Continent’s eyes on African Utility Week as Eskom’s Brian Dames confirms welcome address

Posted on 26 February 2013 by Africa Business

The only truly pan-African event

 

Eskom Chief Executive Brian Dames will once again deliver the keynote address during this year’s opening session of AFRICAN UTILITY WEEK in Cape Town on 14 May. Some 5000 power professionals from all over the continent meet at this event every year at what is the largest utility gathering of its kind in Africa.

 

African Utility Week’s programme director Claire Volkwyn says:  “as the leading African power utility, Eskom’s presence is a sign of their continued support as host utility of the event, their commitment to the growth and expansion of the industry and opportunity to grow a shared vision of what the power sector in Africa can look like if we work together.”

She says there are always high expectations when Brain Dames addresses this industry event because “as the largest power utility in Africa, and one of the largest in the world, Eskom’s strategy for the next 12 – 18 months will inform a lot of decisions, not only for industrial, commercial or domestic consumers within South Africa, but also for other utilities which are either dependent on Eskom for power, or have plans to develop a strategic relationship with Eskom.”


Pan-African power collaboration

“In the 13 years of African Utility Week’s existence, we have been part of and at the root of many valuable joint projects between utilities and services providers across Africa”, says Claire Volkwyn who adds that the Eskom CE has in the past often emphasised the need for collaboration in order to foster growth in Africa’s power sector.

She continues:  “this message has been strengthened by the recent announcement that Eskom has finalised a draft African strategy with a view as they put it:  ‘to taking equity as well as operational positions in generation and transmission projects in the rest of the continent, with its primary focus being opportunities in Southern Africa’.  Particularly high on the list of priorities in this strategy is hydropower and transmission projects within SADC.  As the only true pan-African event, we are perfectly placed to facilitate this ongoing vision.”

 

Ongoing power challenges
The African Utility Week programme will address many of the ongoing challenges that utilities on the continent grapple with.   The programme director explains:  “the day to day challenges of African utilities include getting the generation mix right so that they have the optimal balance of ‘least cost’ options, but also the maximum energy security that they can ensure.  The importance of metering cannot ever be underestimated, and we are going to be addressing the importance of correct installations, revenue management and pros and cons of smart metering.”

Claire Volkwyn adds:  “also as we move to an environment where renewable energy is becoming more and more a mainstream energy choice, decisions and plans need to be put in place about how this technology is going to be integrated into the utility environment.”

African Utility Week
For the past 12 years, the African Utility Week conference and exhibition has helped to facilitate discussions around the opportunities in the power sector and has assisted in African utilities providing electricity and water to all of Africa.  The event brings together more than 5000 utility professionals from across the globe to learn, share knowledge and debate the key topics that will secure the future development of Africa’s power industry.  Attending the African Utility Week exhibition is free when registering in advance and it showcases energy saving technologies and services for the industry from more than 250 providers and features hands-on demonstrations and workshops on the exhibition floor.

 

African Utility Week dates and location:
Exhibition & Conference: 14-15 May 2013
Pre-conference Workshops: 13 May 2013

Site Visits: 16 May 2013
Location:  CTICC, Cape Town, South Africa

Websites: www.african-utility-week.com ; www.clean-power-africa.com

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Will Technology Kill Us or Make Us Stronger?

Posted on 18 January 2013 by Africa Business

McCann “Truth About Wellness” Global Research Study Reveals Multiple Contradictions & Cultural Surprises Around the World

More than half of respondents (54%) think that technology is making us healthier while 46% think it is making us more sick; Globally 94% of consumers agree brands have a role in supporting their wellness needs

NEW YORK, Jan., 2013 /PRNewswire/ – McCann Truth Central, the global intelligence unit of McCann Erickson , the world’s largest advertising agency, released a new global research study, “The Truth About Wellness,” an online global study based on a quantitative survey of 7,000 respondents in the U.S., U.K., Brazil, China, Japan, South Africa and Turkey and supplemented qualitatively in the U.S., U.K., Japan, Peru and Brazil.

“There is an exciting technological revolution in the wellness arena today which is empowering consumers, and transforming our health. However, with obesity seen as the number one threat to future health, there are also concerns that technology is encouraging bad behaviors,” said Daryl Lee , McCann’s Global Chief Strategy Officer. “The good news is that 94% of consumers say brands have a role in supporting their wellness needs.  There has never been a better time for brands to lead positive change.”

John Cahill , CEO, McCann Health commented, “In the healthcare space in particular, wellness is a potent global trend. It’s a time of transition for healthcare professionals and the majority (66%) of people are looking for doctors to focus on prevention as well as curing illness.”

Laura Simpson , Global Director, McCann Truth Central, who led the study, added, “In many ways the Age of Wellness is upon us and is full of contradictions that brands can help to resolve. From China to Brazil, we uncovered an array of unexpected cultural truths about the nature of modern wellness.”

  1. Young men worry more than women that Facebook is making them fat. Globally, 25% of young men (aged 18-24) vs. 17% of same age women worry that their obsession with technology and social networking is encouraging more sedentary living (and therefore obesity). One in ten people globally think that Facebook is making them fat and in Brazil this rises to two in 10, thereby redefining the term “couch potato” for the iPad generation.
  2. Chinese consumers are terrified of aging. Only 7% like the idea of getting older versus 39% in Brazil and 26% globally. Long has it been assumed that aging is revered and welcomed in China yet in a period of rapid change Chinese consumers fear being left behind.  This is an important insight for brands moving into the world’s largest marketplace.
  3. Depression is #1 diagnosis for “Cyberchondriacs.” Globally, one in four people think that our obsession with health is making us unhealthy. After depression, “cyberchondriacs,” or people who look for health information online, are most likely to diagnose themselves with obesity-related illnesses, allergies and migraine in that order said the study.
  4. Brazilians are obsessed with happiness. The happiest countries are thought to be: Brazil, U.S., Australia and Switzerland (and the majority of Brazilians agree! They have a huge level of confidence in their own happiness. 65% see themselves as most happy vs. 33% of Americans). Unsurprisingly, the British think the Australians are the happiest.
  5. Death by cancer is our greatest fear but 20% of Brazilians think that urban violence will get them first. Globally, the # 1 thing people think will kill them is cancer (27%). The British are most concerned about heart attacks and the Japanese are most concerned about Alzheimer’s Disease.  Despite their impressive level of happiness, Brazilians are also very sensitive to the unique risks in their society.
  6. 21% think doctors will be obsolete in the future. Globally, four in 10 people already feel more in control of their health as a direct result of technology and a third trust technology more than their instincts. But 66% think that if doctors can focus more on preventing illness rather than curing it they’ll continue to be valuable to consumers in the future.
  7. Only 5% of humanity would like to have a clone. But many consumers are already gearing up for a science fiction future where technology will bring a host of health benefits. If they could, 32% of consumers would choose to remain the same age forever, 26% would erase unpleasant memories, 18% would insert a microchip to constantly measure their health and 12% would eliminate their need for sleep.
  8. 49% of people regularly do brain exercises. In the past, your heart, liver, and kidneys were the “star” organs whereas now that Alzheimer’s is on the rise, the brain has been added to the “A” list of organs that consumers need to keep healthy. If forced to choose, U.K., Brazil, U.S. and Turkey would preserve their mental health over their physical health.
  9. If you’re 34 it’s all downhill (unless you’re Japanese). Globally, people agreed that the optimal age to achieve wellness is 34 (although in Turkey they think it is 23 and in Japan it is 44). Most people think it is twice as easy for women to achieve wellness as opposed to men.
  10. The average person thinks they’ll live to 79 (but hopes to live to 87). In China, people “think” they’ll outlive the rest of the world by living to age 84. However, it’s the Americans who “want” to live the longest, to age 92 (79 in Turkey). The quest for longevity is surprising given that, on average, people feel that they start to lose quality of life at around 65 years of age (73 in the U.S).

About McCann Truth Central
McCann Truth Central is McCann Erickson ‘s global intelligence unit, with representation in more than 100 countries around the world. The group is dedicated to uncovering human truths to help brands make their mark in the world. For more about Truth Central or to access The Truth About Wellness or previous Truth Studies, visit: http://truthcentral.mccann.com/truth-studies/

About McCann Erickson
McCann Erickson (www.mccann.com) operates 180 offices in more than 120 countries and boasts a client roster that includes preeminent global marketers and many of the world’s most famous brands. The agency is a unit of McCann Worldgroup, a leading global marketing solutions network, comprised of a collaborative roster of best-in-class agencies (of which McCann Health is one) that emphasize creativity, innovation and performance.

Clients include leading global brands such as American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Coca-Cola, General Motors, General Mills, GlaxoSmithKline, Intel, IKEA, Johnson & Johnson, Kraft Foods, L’Oreal, MasterCard, Maybelline, Nestle, Sony and Unilever.

SOURCE McCann Erickson

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Jeffrey Epstein Responds to New Study, Linking Environment with Evolution

Posted on 14 January 2013 by Africa Business

A recent scientific study suggests that evolution may be triggered by environmental causes—a finding that has won the attention of financier and evolutionist, Jeffrey Epstein.

NEW YORK, Jan. 14, 2013 /PRNewswire-iReach/ — According to the latest scientific evidence, it is likely that human evolution was spurred, in large part, by environmental factors. A study conducted by researchers from Penn State and Rutgers University reveals that rapid environmental shifts in Africa, some two million years ago, may have provided the impetus for the beginnings of human evolution. The study has won the attention of scientists from around the world, as well as scientific philanthropists like Jeffrey Epstein .

Jeffrey Epstein—whose Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation has provided crucial funding to evolutionary research programs across the world—weighed in on the new study with a statement to the press.  “The Penn State and Rutgers University study emphasizes that evolution does not occur evenly through time, but rather in dramatic spurts through the course of nature’s history,” Jeffrey Epstein remarks, in his press statement. The Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation backs cutting-edge research and scientific inquiry around the world, and financed the establishment of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics at Harvard University, which studies evolution through the lens of mathematics and biochemistry.

According to the new study’s central hypothesis, changes to the landscape inhabited by early human beings happened at rapid rates, fluctuating between closed woodlands and open grasslands, again and again for a period of 200,000 years. This highly variable environment ultimately led to a significant “drying” of Africa, which, according to the research team, was likely a central factor in human evolution.

The researchers go on to say that, in as few as 10 human generations, early humankind went from an experience of total woodedness to total openness—a dramatic shift that could have spurred not only dietary shifts, but also more vigorous cognitive development.

“Changes in food availability, food type, or the way you get food can trigger evolutionary mechanisms to deal with those change,” says Clayton Magill , a Penn State graduate student who took part in the study.

For the study, researchers effectively reconstructed the different kinds of vegetation that may have been present in Africa, centuries ago, using leaf waxes found in lake sediment. Gas chromatography and mass spectrometry were used to chart the abundance of different types of leaf wax.

The study has been heralded for bringing a greater “adaptive perspective” to the study of human evolution.

ABOUT:

Jeffrey Epstein is a money manager and philanthropist whose passion is for investing in scientific inquiry and education, throughout the world. Through the work of his Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation, he has made significant contributions to universities, hospitals, museums, laboratories, individual scientists and numerous charitable organizations. He is also the organizer of the Jeffrey Epstein Forum, an online avenue for the exchange and development of ideas related to science, technology, economics, and culture. In addition to founding the Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation and the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics at Harvard University, Jeffrey Epstein is a former member of Rockefeller University, the New York Academy of Science, the Trilateral Commission, and the Council on Foreign Relations, and currently sits on the board of the Mind, Brain and Behavior Committee at Harvard University.

SOURCE Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation

http://www.jeffreyepsteinusvi.com

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Novus Celebrates World Egg Day and Supports Egg Consumption and Egg Production in Africa

Posted on 13 October 2012 by Africa Business

 

Special events are being held throughout the continent

 

ST. LOUIS , Oct., 2012 /PRNewswire/ – Novus International, Inc. has partnered with egg industry associations in Africa for the third consecutive year to support World Egg Day celebrations. On Friday, October 12 , numerous events are being held throughout Africa to promote the nutritional benefits of eggs and raise the public awareness of the importance eggs play in a nutritious and healthy diet.

In western Africa , several states within Nigeria including Ogun, Lagos , Abuja-Federal, Port Harcourt-Rivers and Benin will be hosting events at schools; activities include egg races, talks by health care professionals and miming student competitions.

In eastern Africa , especially Kenya and Uganda , two-day events are being held. The first day will be educational with opportunities to interact with egg producers; the second day will involve roadshows, road processions and entertainment, as well as school competitions.

In southern Africa , particularly in Zambia and Mozambique , educational presentations will be made on radio and television. Eggs for Africa will open a new central warehouse for eggs in Nampula, Mozambique to promote locally produced eggs.

Novus’s commitment to World Egg Day in Africa is a reflection of its vision to help feed the world affordable, wholesome food and achieve a higher quality of life. With the threat of rising food prices on the horizon, Novus recognizes the affordability and complete source of protein offered by eggs and reaffirms its support for all players throughout the poultry value chain.

World Egg Day was established, in part, to recognize the healthy role eggs can play in human diets. Eggs can make a huge difference in the lives of people throughout the world. The egg industry is committed to its corporate social responsibility and making sure people globally have access to a sustainable, good quality food supply.

For centuries, eggs have been a source of healthy, high-quality protein. No food is more versatile, with countless preparations accepted in almost every culture for any meal. No other food source provides as much nutrition, with so few calories, at such a low cost helping families stay financially and physically fit. And no other food source contains so many key ingredients for life, making eggs nutritionally essential.

One egg contains 13 essential vitamins and minerals including Vitamin D. Egg yolks are an excellent source of choline, an essential nutrient that promotes fetal brain development as well as helps prevent birth defects. The high-quality protein found in eggs is digested more slowly than other nutrients, so it has been shown to help people stay energized.

For more information visit www.novusint.com

About Novus International, Inc.

Novus International, Inc. is headquartered in metropolitan St. Louis, Missouri , U.S.A. and serves customers in nearly 100 countries around the world. A global leader in developing animal health and nutrition solutions, Novus’s products include ALIMET® and MHA® feed supplements, ACTIVATE® nutritional feed acid, ACIDOMIX® preservative premixture, ADVENT®coccidiosis control, MINTREX® chelated trace minerals, SANTOQUIN® feed preservative, MERA™MET aquaculture feed additive, AGRADO® feed ingredient and many other specialty ingredients. Arenus® (www.arenus.com) is a division of Novus Nutrition Brands, LLC (a subsidiary of Novus International, Inc.) that focuses on developing health and dietary supplements for the equine and companion animal markets. Stratum® Nutrition, a division of Novus Nutrition Brands, LLC, focuses on human nutrition through specialty and functional ingredients for manufacturers of foods, beverages and dietary supplements (www.stratumnutrition.com). Novus is privately owned by Mitsui & Co. (U.S.A.), Inc. and Nippon Soda Co., Ltd. For more information visit www.novusint.com

®NOVUS, ALIMET, MHA, ACTIVATE, ACIDOMIX, CIBENZA, MAAC, MINTREX, SANTOQUIN and AGRADO are trademarks of Novus International, Inc. and are registered in the United Statesand other countries. ®ADVENT is a trademark of Viridus Animal Health, LLC, and is registered in the United States and other countries. ®ARENUS is a registered trademark of Novus Nutrition Brands, LLC. ®STRATUM NUTRITION is a trademark of Novus Nutrition Brands, LLC, and is registered in the United States and other countries. ™MERA and SOLUTIONS SERVICE SUSTAINABILITY are trademarks of Novus International, Inc. © 2012 Novus International, Inc. All rights reserved.

Contacts: Tracy Barfield
636.794.2411
Tracy.barfield@novusint.com

Larry Stoller
314.576.8459
Larry.stoller@novusint.com

SOURCE Novus International, Inc.

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New Kenyan Fossils Shed Light on Early Human Evolution

Posted on 24 August 2012 by Africa Business

 

EMBARGOED (by the journal Nature)

Download a PDF version of this press release
Download a Q & A page for answers to frequently asked questions

NAIROBI, KENYA – Exciting new fossils discovered east of Lake Turkana confirm that there were two additional species of our genus – Homo – living alongside our direct human ancestral species, Homo erectus, almost two million years ago. The finds, announced in the prestigious scientific journal Nature on August 9th, include a face, a remarkably complete lower jaw, and part of a second lower jaw. They were uncovered between 2007 and 2009 by the Koobi Fora Research Project (KFRP), led by Meave and Louise Leakey. KFRP’s fieldwork was facilitated by the Turkana Basin Institute (TBI), and supported by the National Geographic Society, which has funded the KFRP since 1968.

Four decades ago, the KFRP discovered the enigmatic fossil known as KNM-ER 1470 (or “1470” for short). This skull, readily distinguished by its large brain size and long flat face, ignited a longstanding debate about just how many different species of early Homo lived alongside Homo erectus during the Pleistocene epoch. 1470’s unusual morphology was attributed by some scientists to sexual differences and natural degrees of variation within a single species, whereas others interpreted the fossil as evidence of a separate species.

This decades-old dilemma has endured for two reasons. First, comparisons with other fossils have been limited due to the fact that 1470’s remains do not include its teeth or lower jaw. Second, no other fossil skull has mirrored 1470’s flat and long face, leaving in doubt just how representative these characteristics are. The new fossils address both issues.

“For the past 40 years we have looked long and hard in the vast expanse of sediments around Lake Turkana for fossils that confirm the unique features of 1470’s face and show us what its teeth and lower jaw would have looked like,” says Meave Leakey, co-leader of the KFRP and a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence. “At last we have some answers.”

“Combined, the three new fossils give a much clearer picture of what 1470 looked like,” says Fred Spoor, leader of the scientific analyses. “As a result, it is now clear that two species of early Homo lived alongside Homo erectus. The new fossils will greatly help in unraveling how our branch of human evolution first emerged and flourished almost two million years ago.”

Found within a radius of just over 10 km from 1470’s location, the three new fossils are dated between 1.78 million and 1.95 million years old. The face KNM-ER 62000, discovered by field crew member Elgite Lokorimudang in 2008, is very similar to that of 1470, showing that the latter is not a single “odd one out” individual. Moreover, the face’s well-preserved upper jaw has almost all of its cheek teeth still in place, which for the first time makes it possible to infer the type of lower jaw that would have fitted 1470. A particularly good match can be found in the other two new fossils, the lower jaw KNM-ER 60000, found by Cyprian Nyete in 2009, and part of another lower jaw, KNM-ER 62003, found by Robert Moru in 2007. KNM-ER 60000 stands out as the most complete lower jaw of an early member of the genus Homo yet discovered.

The team working on the new finds included Christopher Kiarie (TBI), who carried out the laboratory preparation of the fossils, Craig Feibel (Rutgers University), who studied the age of the fossils, and Susan Antón (New York University), Christopher Dean (UCL, University College London), Meave and Louise Leakey (TBI, Kenya; and Stony Brook University, New York) and Fred Spoor (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig and UCL), who analysed the fossils. The National Geographic Society funded the fieldwork, the Leakey Foundation funded geological studies, and the Max Planck Society supported laboratory work.

TBI is a privately funded, non-profit initiative founded by Richard Leakey and Stony Brook University, New York, that seeks to facilitate multi-disciplinary fieldwork within the Lake Turkana Basin in affiliation with the National Museums of Kenya. The primary research focus is human prehistory and related earth and natural science studies.

CONTACT INFORMATION:

Meave Leakey
Email: meave.leakey@turkanabasin.org
Phone: +254722717138
Skype: kfrp-press

Fred Spoor
Email: f.spoor@eva.mpg.de
Phone: +49 341 3550372 (office), +49 1578 1751734 (cell)
Skype: kfrp-fs

Christopher Dean
Email: ucgacrd@ucl.ac.uk
Phone: +44 (0)2076790462

Craig Feibel
Email: feibel@eps.rutgers.edu

Susan Antón
Email: susan.anton@nyu.edu
Phone: 908-268-3074 (cell)
Skype: Osteo 1520

Louise Leakey
Email: louise.leakey@turkanabasin.org
Photographs available from Barbara Moffet, National Geographic, at bmoffet@ngs.org

Source: http://www.turkanabasin.org/discovery/knmer60000/

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Techno Brain partners with Samasource to empower underprivileged youth

Posted on 30 July 2012 by Africa Business

 

by Boniface Manyala

Nairobi July, 2012

Unemployed persons from slum areas around Nairobi now have a reason to smile.

The Rockefeller Foundation and SAMASource wants to hire literate youth from these areas to work for giant companies such as LinkedIn, Intuit, the US State Department, and local hospitals, among others.

SAMSource – a non-profit organisation based in the US is working with Techno Brain – a local business processing and outsourcing company – to create jobs in data entry, content moderation and other outsourcing jobs to hundreds of Kenyans from poor families.

“The project we are in with SAMASource is about creating jobs to the youth from slum around Nairobi. We target those with IT skills that can help us do certain tasks for American companies,” says Lakshman Manickam, Director Operations and Human Resource at Techno Brain.

“SAMASource will bid for the contracts in the US and we will execute the tasks remotely from our offices here in Kenya. The work mostly involves ordinary outsourcing duties such as data entry, verification of contents on client’s websites, and high quality content moderation, over 100 people has been employed to carry out the tasks,” he says.

Unemployment

In an interview during her visit to Kenya, SAMASource Chief Operating Officer, Chelsea Cooper, said the youth initiative was prompted by the increasing rate of unemployment among educated youth in the country.

“These groups are able to perform tasks like web verification, data entry to companies like Google and e-bay, we are here to help link the two,” she said.

She said about 90 individuals in rural areas in Ugenya and Karachuonyo constituencies will also get computer training.

“There are a lot of opportunities in the developed world. Many companies now want to digitise most of their operations and are looking for affordable labour,” she said.

Digitisation

Meanwhile, Rockefeller Foundation unveiled a Sh35 million project targeting youth in informal settlements in Kenya, South Africa, and Ghana.

The Foundation recently funded digitisation of four million records in the Ear, Nose and Throat clinics at Kenyatta National Hospital at Sh34 million.

The contract was awarded to Technobrain, which recruited 35 youths from Kibera and Mathare to help speed up the process that will make records retrieval at the hospital easier.

“Digitisation of records at Kenyatta Hospital will make work easier for doctors in the hospital. It will save time and create efficiency at the institution,” noted James Nyoro, Rockefeller Managing Director.

“This is one of our flagship projects in the country to display that poverty can be fought using ICT. The project hires those from a disadvantaged background and helps impact on their everyday lives.”

In another project with Digital Divide Data (a local Business Processing Outsourcing), Rockefeller Foundation has also created 150 jobs to youth from Mathare Slums.

“The youths are doing satellite jobs such as data entry, among other outsourcing jobs to American Companies,” he said.

 

Boniface Manyala | Public Relations Officer|Techno Brain BPO ITES Ltd | Phone: +254 20 2364167 / 68 | Mobile: +254 721 304 941|Fax +254 20 5000841|P.O. Box 510-00100| Second Floor Block – A, Red Commercial Complex, Mombasa Road, Nairobi, Kenya | Website: www.technobraingroup.com

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Strong regulatory frameworks vital to success of BPO Industry in East Africa

Posted on 18 June 2012 by AfricaBusiness.com

By Boniface Manyala

June 18, 2012

On June 5 to 6, 2012 the East African Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) executives and those from various parts of the globe gathered in Nairobi to discuss the potentiality of BPO in the African region in relation to the current global economic situation.

The presence of such high-profile personalities such as Kenya’s Information and Communications Permanent Secretary Dr. Bitange Ndemo and Paul Kukubo, the Kenya ICT Board CEO pointed to a successful two-day summit, and indeed it was.

It is clear that Africa, and especially East Africa provides strategic outsourcing destination for companies in the West and is ready to compete with other leading global outsourcing destinations like India, Indonesia and Singapore.

This favorable outsourcing climate that investors in the region need to take advantage of includes, as Dr. Ndemo stated, government’s commitment to actively promote Kenya as an outsourcing destination of choice.

I am sure that governments in the rest of East Africa are committed towards the same. I say this because after listening Cayman Consults presentation by Uganda’s Abubaker Luwaga, there was no doubt that Uganda, just like Kenya is committed to create an environment that is favorable for outsourcing.

In other words, we in East Africa are ready and equipped to handle outsourced work from western markets because our companies have an established tradition in best practices to deliver efficient and cost effective contact centers. This I must add is something we should be proud of.

We are also favored by a bright future, if we consider the global BPO market which is projected to grow at an average of 5.4 per cent every year in the period 2012 to 2015. These, combined with the talent pool from the young graduates that our colleges and universities churn out every year, should spur the growth in the outsourcing industry.

Looking at our IT infrastructure shows that we are not doing badly considering that we have witnessed innovative IT-Enabled services prominent is such countries as Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda.

Significant presence has also been observed in Uganda and outside East Africa in Zambia and South Africa. It is notable that the social, economic and political expansion in East Africa has been accelerated by the strong forces of Information Technology. While we also boost as a strong tourism destination and availability of many companies that offer financial services.

True, the flourishing IT segment that consist of BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) and ITES (IT-enabled services) are the core sectors that are driving the continent into the epicenter of transformation but all those favorable factors notwithstanding, we in East Africa cannot afford to seat on our laurels, we must, as Munjal Shah stated at the summit, make a deliberate move to encourage the growth of domestic BPO market.

And how do we do this? Easy, Let us protect the cost advantage to ensure that buyer interest are sustained, let us access untapped talent pools by creating awareness for youth to treat BPO as a long term career-building opportunity, let us build capacity to increase collaboration between industry and academic institutions by developing BPO Specific curriculums and education Models, but above all let us strengthen regulatory frameworks and ensure there is political stability in East Africa.

Mr. Manyala is the Public Relations Officer for Techno Brain BPO/ITES Ltd. He can be reached at manyala @ technobrainbpo.com

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Tanzanian IT Company-Going International

Posted on 16 June 2012 by AfricaBusiness.com

Since the 20th century, IT has been the fastest growing industry in Tanzania. Eventually, IT has impacted tremendous growth across various sectors and also brought various business opportunities in Tanzania.

With this advent of IT, 15 years back, a small company named Techno Brain, commenced its journey by setting up an IT training centre in 1997 in Dar es Salaam. However unlike other companies, Techno Brain did not stop there and made a strategic move in enhancing its expansion of operations. It sought to offer ICT solutions within the African region. After a decade long journey, Techno Brain, the pioneer of IT in Tanzania, now stands as a leading ICT, IT Training and BPO/ ITES provider in Africa.

 

Manoj Shanker - CEO Techno Brain Group

In an interview to a Tanzanian Daily, Manoj Shanker, Techno Brain’s Group CEO, stated, “Since inception, Techno Brain held a vision to be recognized as a respected, global IT firm, while also being committed to society’s development. With this vision and continuous support from governments across various African countries and strategic partners, Techno Brain has been able to create a difference in the lives of the common man with various innovative solutions”.

Now, in a real sense, every day and at every stage, Techno Brain’s solutions are contributing to the endeavours of government or semi-government bodies in several countries to earn more revenue, ensure national security, enhance financial transparency, monitor drug trafficking, provide better citizen-centric services and ensure an environment free of child abuse and violence.

In the latter half of 2000, this Tanzanian IT company felt the need to widen its scope and go global. Thus, with an aim of leveraging the best infrastructure and the best pool available in India. Techno Brain has managed to go beyond borders and set up its first Research & Development centre at Hyderabad in India. Over time the company has also expanded its operations to USA, UAE and UK. These strategic moves placed Techno Brain in the cadre of a record breaker in terms of international success.

Techno Brain became the first Tanzanian IT company to go global and penetrate Indian market, to be recognized as the centre of excellence in IT in the world. In 2011, the R&D centre was appraised at Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) Level 3.

Over the years, Techno Brain has made its mark in Africa as a value-added ICT solutions provider. For its contribution towards providing effective and high quality ICT Solutions, the company has won several global awards such as the Country Partner and ISV Partner of the Year by Microsoft and number one IT Company among KPMG’s survey of top 100 mid-sized firms.

The journey for this Tanzanian company may not have been easy. However, armed with determination and a soaring vision, there seemed no aim too lofty that could not be achieved. Today, TECHNO Brain stands as a true example of enduring success as it continues to take giant strides into a promising future!

 

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