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Scientist underscores usefulness of genome editing technology to Africa



Prof. Olalekan Akinbo, Scientist and Supervisor at Centre of Excellence in Science, Technology and Innovation (STI), African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), says Genome Editing (GEd) technology is useful to Africa.

Akinbo spoke in a telephone interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday.

He clarified that Genome Editing (GEd) and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) were not the same in principle.

Making this distinction, he said GMO could apply Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) information from another plant or animal to form a crop, while GEd had nothing to do with external applications.

Akinbo explained that in GEd, all what was needed was already inside the plant’s DNA, hence the idea was to use the inherent information to assist the plant realise its potential.

He stated that this was known as redundant DNA which GEd technology would help to activate.

The scientist, who was responding to why African countries should take GEd seriously, argued that it was an emerging technology with new innovations that help in various areas of improvements.

He listed these areas to include climate, agriculture and health among others, adding that the technology ia also a means of improving livelihoods.

Akinbo said the technology of GEd was an initiative the centre advocated with focus on agricultural productivity.

According to him, numerous crops have the potentials to produce optimally but due to the limitations caused by diseases, pests and nutrient insufficiency in the soil, among others, they failed to optimally produce.

Akinbo said in such cases, crops with these shortcomings were not to be exposed to conventional breeding techniques where the parental characteristics could not be passed from one generation to another for enhancement in yields.

He added: “But when the limitation is removed through genome editing which uses advanced breeding technique, then the potential of the crop would be enhanced and productivity in regards to yield will improve.

“This is the most important thing because Africa is an agrarian continent that relies more on agriculture and most of agricultural productivity is very low due to pest, diseases among other inhibiting factors.’’

Akinbo lamented that the standard of Africa’s agricultural productivity was low in comparison to what is required or expected in international standards of crop yield and output.

He said through GEd technology, Africa’s crop yield and agricultural output would be improved and maximised, which would automatically impact on the Gross Domestic Products(GDPs) of African economies.

He assured that with GEd, instead of cultivating massive hectares of land for less yield as what was experienced in conventional breeding, a reduced area of land would ensure tremendous yield.

The scientist further said that GEd was helpful in addressing issues relating to climate change because there would be significant afforestation that would be going on.

He said: “Africans need food to feed the teeming population, so yield may not need to be one hundred per cent farming with improvement in efficiency and productivity scale.

“So, this technology could also help to improve and support the productivity of crops, with reduced area of cultivated land and provide enough feed for animals as well as increase their meat productivity.’’

Akinbo stated that emerging technologies were numerous but genome editing was one that made use of the technology at the DNA level, which is the information carrier in the body of any living organism.

He said that this was very important as this was one of the advantages of the technology.

Akinbo added: “The truth is that science has proven that this technology will help African nations.’’

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IWD: World Bank restates commitment to closing gender disparities



The World Bank Group has restated its commitment to closing disparities between men and women as the world celebrates International Women’s Day.

President of the World Bank Group, David Malpass, said this in a message titled; “The World Bank Group and International Women’s Day” posted on the World Bank blogs on Wednesday.

Malpass said the bank’s commitment to gender equality had increased in ambition over time.

“Gender and development has been an International Development Association (IDA) Special Theme since IDA16, recognising that reducing gender disparities is essential for reducing poverty.

“In IDA20, the number of gender policy commitments has increased from six to eight, with ambitious targets in areas including economic inclusion, gender-based violence prevention, and childcare.”

He said entrepreneurship offered an important path to empowerment.

Malpass said the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi), based at the World Bank, was supporting tens of thousands of women entrepreneurs, with more than 1.2 billion dollars of financing to date.

He said the International Finance Corporation was working with private sector clients to promote women’s entrepreneurship and advance economic inclusion in the workplace.

“Across the World Bank Group and with partners, clients and donors, there is much work underway that aims to address gender disparities including the ID4D initiative that works to close gender gaps in financial inclusion.

“Others are efforts to reduce the prevalence of gender-based violence and the Gender Innovation Labs that undertake impact evaluations to generate more evidence on how to close gender gaps.

Malpass said the labs were in Africa, East Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa, and South Asia.

He said most importantly, the bank was integrating gender in its operations worldwide.

“At the World Bank Group, we continue to hold ourselves accountable for progress on achieving more gender-inclusive recruitment, promotion, leadership development, and mentoring programmes.

“We also hold ourselves accounrable in diverse candidate pools and interview panels; enhanced career development and learning opportunities; and greater opportunities for work-life balance.

“Today, women account for 53.5 per cent of our workforce, and 43 per cent of management, a share that has grown significantly.

According to him, there is much work ahead, and International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to galvanise attention and to restate our commitment to closing disparities between men and women which is in the interests of everyone.

Malpass said that addressing critical gender gaps, including female labour force participation, offers an opportunity to boost incomes and stimulate growth.

He said research from the World Bank had repeatedly made clear that accelerating gender equality could generate significant economic gains.

According to him, the World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law 2023 report published recently, shows that 2.4 billion women of working age do not have fully equal economic opportunity.

“In 2022, only 34 gender-related legal reforms were recorded across 18 economies, the lowest number since 2001. It is important that the pace of legal reforms accelerates.”

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March 11 polls: FRSC urges Nigerians to vote peacefully, shun violence



The Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), on Wednesday urged Nigerians, particularly electorate, to vote peacefully and maintain decorum during and after the March 11 polls.

The Sector Commander of FRSC, Enugu State, Corps Commander Joseph Toby, gave the advice while speaking with the News Agency o Nigeria (NAN) after attending the Inter-agency Consultation Committee on Election Security (ICCES) meeting in Enugu.

NAN recalls that INEC has scheduled Saturday for Governorship and State Assembly elections in the country.

Toby noted that no meaningful endeavour could be achieved in an atmosphere of rancour and violence.

According to him, Enugu State electorate and the residents in general should continue in their peaceful and matured conduct as exemplified during the just-concluded Feb. 25 polls.

“Nigerians, please go out en masse, be peaceful, cast your votes and go home.

“And if you do not want to go home, stay a distance from the polling units and maintain civility and decorum while the polls last.

“The people contesting these elections are not only Nigerians, but also people living within our neighbourhoods, local government areas and state. They are brothers and sisters, we known them too well.

“We are not foreigners, we are all brothers and sisters and at the end of the day, we will go back to our daily lives and live as one Nigeria,” he said.

The commander said that the Corps had been up and doing in ensuring that vehicles used for election duties were road worthy.

“We have continued to certify road worthiness of vehicles to be used for election duties even at the just-concluded Feb. 25. polls.

“However, it is left for INEC to mobilise them to the field of operation on the election fay as required,” he said.

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Nollywood actress assures Lagosians of high level productivity, economic boost



Nollywood actress and politician, Funke Akindele, has called on Lagosians to vote for Abdul-Azeez Adediran and herself, as their next Governor and Deputy Governor of Lagos State on Saturday.

The renowned actress, who took to her Instagram page to solicit for votes, assured Lagos residents of high level productivity and boosting of economy if voted to power.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Akindele is the running mate to Dr Adediran, the governorship candidate of the PDP, Lagos State, for the 2023 election scheduled to hold on Saturday.

According to her, the most used means of transportation has been left unattended to.

She added that even the problem of traffic has continuously plagued Lagosians for years, hence affecting productivity.

Akindele noted that some of the traffic problems required infrastructure renewal, stressing that most of them could be solved with a strong political will.

“We call Lagos state a “wealthy” state and the reason for this, is because of its high level of commercial activities which could only be made possible through effective transportation.

“Some of our traffic problems require infrastructural renewal. However, most of them can be solved with a strong political will.

“This, we will bring to bear in the short term, to clear up bottlenecks, identified flash points by rejigging traffic management agencies to improve performance and delivery,” she said.

Akindele said that her team would ensure enforcement of traffic laws with the aid of technology and skew travel time for heavy duty vehicles, among others.

The deputy governorship candidate said that if elected, their administration would create more lay-bys and fly-overs for free flow of traffic.

“These we are convinced, will safe man hour wasted on our roads and improve productivity, thereby boosting the economy of the state.

“This is one of the many issues the #JandorFunke2023 administration will prioritise once elected into power.

“Vote wisely! Vote Dr Abdul-Azeez Olajide Adediran and Funke Akindele as your next Governor and Deputy Governor of Lagos state,” she wrote.

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