Category: Africa

Africa is using WhatsApp ‘mods’ with extra features we all want


It’s no secret that WhatsApp is the world’s most popular messaging app, with more than 2 billion users across the globe. However, many users want more features, such as scheduling messages or the ability to send large files. This has led some users, many of whom are based in Africa, to switch to modified versions of WhatsApp. According to a report by Yomi Kazeem for Quartz, these knock-off versions are not available on the app store. People download these “mods” from unofficial sources, or share them offline from device to device. [Read: Spotify’s new iOS design makes it easier to navigate] Kazeem noted that…

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Research: Early humans in Africa may have interbred with an unknown species


One of the more startling discoveries arising from genomic sequencing of ancient hominin DNA is the realization that all humans outside Africa have traces of DNA in their genomes that do not belong to our own species. The approximately six billion people on Earth whose recent ancestry is not from Africa will have inherited between 1% and 2% of their genome from our closest but now extinct relatives: the Neanderthals. East Asians and Oceanians have also inherited a small amount of ancestry from the Denisovans, another close relative of Homo Sapiens. Now a new study, published in Science Advances, suggests…

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Research: DNA pinpoints region in northern Botswana as humanity’s birthplace


Where was the evolutionary birthplace of modern humans? The East African Great Rift Valley has long been the favored contender – until today. Our new research has used DNA to trace humanity’s earliest footsteps to a prehistoric wetland called Makgadikgadi-Okavango, south of the Great Zambezi River. Our analysis, published in Nature today, shows that the earliest population of modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) arose 200,000 years ago in an area that covers parts of modern-day Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Today it is a dry and dusty land with scattered salt pans, and it is hard to believe that modern humans…

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The climate crisis threatens gender equality in Africa


People who directly depend on the natural world for their livelihoods, like farmers and fishers, will be among the greatest victims of the climate crisis. In vulnerable hotspots, such as the arid lands of Kenya and Ethiopia, farming communities are already struggling with droughts and water scarcity that kill their cattle and threaten their very survival. The glacial-fed river basins of the Himalayan mountains, or the deltas of Bangladesh, India , and Ghana, are increasingly prone to floods, landslides, and powerful cyclones. As a result, men are often migrating further to keep their families going, looking for casual work in…

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How smartphones get African millennials addicted to sports betting


When one talks about young Africans using smartphones, the dominant narrative is that these gadgets serve mostly as platforms for connection so that users can communicate and share greetings and information via text and images. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Signal take pride of place in that description, despite their murkier side. What has perhaps been overlooked is how smartphones are also affecting other facets of young people’s lives. One area is the ever-growing community of sports betting in Africa. The phenomenon of sports betting among African youths has taken the region by storm. Recent polls and anecdotal reports point…

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Why mobile access won’t mend our ‘digital divide’ without fixed-line broadband


Mobile services have had an important and positive impact on developing countries where they are the main means of connecting to the internet. However, mobile services have capacity constraints. They use limited radio frequency spectrum, which means that mobile data typically has usage limits. They also have high prices per unit (per gigabyte), which results in lower use per connection. Fixed-line broadband, on the other hand, has significantly lower prices per unit. It is often offered on an uncapped or unlimited basis and therefore has higher usage per connection. This enables a wider range of services. Fixed lines are expensive…

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