Sunday July 21, 2019

Robotics Competition: Robots built by team of Young People Promotes Innovation for Economic Growth in Africa

Organizers of the annual robotics competition say the goal is to encourage African governments and private donors to invest more in science and math education throughout the continent.

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Dakar, Senegal (May 19, 2017) - Rokyaha Cisse, 17, from Dakar, adjusts her team's robot at the 2017 Pan-African Robotics Competition in Dakar, Senegal. Their robot sends sounds into the ground, which detect the presence of metal.

Dakara, May 24, 2017: The hum of tiny machines fills a fenced-off obstacle course, as small robots compete to gather mock natural resources such as diamonds and gold.

The robots were built by teams of young people gathered in Dakar for the annual Pan-African Robotics Competition.

They’re among the several hundred middle school and high school students from Senegal and surrounding countries who spent last week in Dakar building robots. Organizers of the annual robotics competition say the goal is to encourage African governments and private donors to invest more in science and math education throughout the continent.

Marieme Toure, from Dakar, adjusts her team's robot at the 2017 Pan-African Robotics Competition in Dakar, Senegal, May 19, 2017. (R.Shryock/VOA)
Marieme Toure, from Dakar, adjusts her team’s robot at the 2017 Pan-African Robotics Competition in Dakar, Senegal, May 19, 2017. (R.Shryock/VOA)

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‘Made in Africa’

The event’s founder, Sidy Ndao, says this year’s theme is “Made in Africa,” and focuses on how robotics developed in Africa could help local economies.

“We have noticed that most countries that have developed in the likes of the United States have based their development on manufacturing and industrialization, and African countries on the other hand are left behind in this race,” Ndao said. “So we thought it would be a good idea to inspire the kids to tell them about the importance of manufacturing, the importance of industry, and the importance of creation and product development.”

During the week, the students were split into three groups.

The first group worked on robots that could automate warehouses. The second created machines that could mine natural resources, and the third group was tasked to come up with a new African product and describe how to build it.

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Aboubacar Savage, 14, from Gambia looks at a computer at the 2017 Pan-African Robotics Competition in Dakar, Senegal, May 19, 2017. (R. Shryock/VOA)
Aboubacar Savage, 14, from Gambia looks at a computer at the 2017 Pan-African Robotics Competition in Dakar, Senegal, May 19, 2017. (R. Shryock/VOA)

Building a robot a team effort

Seventeen-year-old Rokyaha Cisse from Senegal helped her team develop a robot that sends sound waves into the ground to detect the presence of metals and then start digging.

Cisse says it is very interesting and fun, and they are learning new things, as well as having their first opportunity to handle robots.

As part of a younger team, Aboubacar Savage from Gambia said their robot communicates with computers.

“It is a robot that whatever you draw into the computer, it translates it and draws it in real life,” Savage said. “It is kind of hard. And there is so much competition, but we are trying. I have learned how to assemble a robot. I have learned how to program into a computer.”

The event’s founder, Ndao, is originally from Senegal, but is now a professor at the University of Nebraska’s Lincoln College of Engineering in the United States.

“I have realized how much the kids love robotics and how much they love science,” Ndao said “You can tell because when it is time for lunch, we have to convince them to actually leave, and then [when] it is time to go home, nobody wants to leave.”

Mohamed Sidy, 14 years old and from Dakar, holds up his team's robot at the 2017 Pan-African Robotics Competition in Dakar, Senegal, May 19, 2017. (R. Shryock/VOA)
Mohamed Sidy, 14 years old and from Dakar, holds up his team’s robot at the 2017 Pan-African Robotics Competition in Dakar, Senegal, May 19, 2017. (R. Shryock/VOA)

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Outsourced jobs cost Africa billions

A winning team was named in each category, but Ndao hopes the real winners will be science and technology in Africa.

The organizers of the Next Einstein Forum, which held its annual global gathering last year in Senegal, said Africa is currently missing out on $4 billion a year by having to outsource jobs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to expatriates.

Ndao said African governments and private investors need to urgently invest more on education in those fields, in particular at the university level. (VOA)

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African Nations Urge Government to Enforce Fairer Family Laws

The pact, known as the Maputo Protocol, came into force in 2005 and guarantees extensive rights in areas from protection against violence to economic empowerment

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FILE - A woman protests against underage marriage in Lagos, Nigeria, July 20, 2013. VOA

Women and girls in Africa are still being pushed into forced or early marriages, while those in unhappy unions face discrimination when seeking divorce, campaigners said on Tuesday, urging governments to enforce fairer family laws.

The Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) — a coalition of 50 groups — said while most nations had committed to a pan-African pact on women’s rights, states had failed to enforce laws relating to marriage, divorce, child maintenance and inheritance.

The pact, known as the Maputo Protocol, came into force in 2005 and guarantees extensive rights in areas from protection against violence to economic empowerment.

Anisah Ari from the Nigeria-based Women Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative, a SOAWR member, said while African nations had taken steps in other areas such as tackling sexual violence, family laws were largely being ignored.

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File: Sudanese Women carrying 50kg bag of grains. Wikimedia Commons

“While the Maputo Protocol affirms women’s rights to exercise self-determination and bodily autonomy — free from discrimination, coercion and violence — many African girls and women continue to bear the brunt of discriminatory family laws,” Ari told a news conference.

“For instance, despite the fact that women have a right to inherit their husbands’ properties after death, this is not always assured — leading to protracted legal battles.”

The SOAWR members, which come from 25 African countries, said many nations had enacted progressive family laws in line with the Maputo Protocol, but the laws were not being enforced.

Women’s contribution and access to familial property was rarely recognized during marital disputes, and women often faced an uphill struggle when seeking child maintenance, they added.

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Women wear the Algerian flag during a protest in Algiers, April 26, 2019. VOA

The legally binding pact, lauded as the most progressive human rights instrument for women and girls in Africa, has been signed and ratified by 42 of the African Union’s 55 member states. Three countries — Botswana, Morocco and Egypt — have neither signed nor ratified it.

The SOAWR members — which come from countries such as Tunisia, Uganda, South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya — said addressing the protection and rights of women and girls in the family was the integral to the advancement of women.

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“Family laws are key as the family unit is where the socialization of gender roles begins. It is where girls first learn their rights and roles in society,” said Violet Muthiga from Sauti Ya Wanawake, a Kenya-based women’s rights group.

“So if we can intervene at the family level to ensure they are protected and treated fairly, we can change perceptions and curb practices like child marriage and female genital mutilation — all of which happen with the family unit.” (VOA)