NEPAD Agency African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE) held a side event on biosafety capacity building in Africa during the African Innovation Summit, on 7 June in Kigali, Rwanda. The objective of the event was to highlight NEPAD Agency’s contribution to ongoing efforts at creating conducive environments for the development and management of emerging technologies for socio-economic development in Africa.
Co-chaired by Hon. Dr Gérardine Mukeshimana, Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources of Rwanda and Dr Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, CEO of the NEPAD Agency, the event also served as a commemorative milestone of a decade of ABNE service delivery to AU member states and Regional Economic Communities.
In his welcome remarks, Dr Mayaki stated that “The advent of modern biotechnology, while presenting new tools and techniques for crop improvement, continues to raise safety concerns to human health and the environment, and thus the relevance of regulation. There is the need to adopt a co-evolutionary approach by which the function of regulation is to promote innovation while at the same time safeguard human health and the environment.”
“It was within this context that the African Ministerial Council on Science and Technology resolved over a decade ago to develop a 20-year Biotechnology strategy with specific technology goals that would be implemented through regional economic communities. Today the landscape regarding the regulatory systems looks much more different than was the case 5 years ago. This could be attributed to improved knowledge and understanding emanating from improved capacity in the management of the technology. And this is why ABNE is a critical space, instrument and mechanism in forging a conducive environment and providing the right tools for regulatory systems, the very essence of ABNE’s existence for the past 10 years,” Dr Mayaki said.
“This meeting is very timely. It is happening at a time when the agricultural sector is facing unprecedented challenges that could be associated with the effects of climate change, including extreme weather, pests and diseases as well as urbanisation and population growth. Our farmers on the continent are still facing challenges of access to improved technologies. Consequently, it is important that as a continent, we deepen our understanding on how best to explore modern biotechnologies to mitigate these challenges for the benefit of our people,” she said.
Dr Jeremy Ouedraogo, Head of NEPAD Agency ABNE made a presentation on ABNE’s achievements during its 10 years of supporting African Union member states in the building of functional biosafety systems. He pointed out the continent’s enormous assets and the need for industrial transformation based on modern transformation of Agriculture, mainly in rural areas. He further highlighted several AU decisions and initiatives on agriculture from the Malabo declaration to Agenda 2063 all of which prioritised the eradication of poverty and hunger and the attainment of food security. He also highlighted NEPAD Agency ABNE’s role in empowering African regulators and policy-makers in making evidence-based decisions in order to access safe and useful agricultural technologies.
The side event also afforded participants the opportunity to exchange views with the Minister and NEPAD Agency CEO, and also obtain information on impact of ABNE’s services from member states. The floor was especially given to Dr Tesfaye Disasa, Director of the National Agricultural Biotechnology Research Center of the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research. He outlined the range of technical support services received from ABNE and how it contributed to observed progress in the implementation of a functional biosafety regulatory system.
On behalf of Michigan State University, a long-standing partner of NEPAD Agency, Dr Karim Maredia thanked the leadership of the NEPAD Agency for the commitment shown throughout the past decade of technical partnership that is now bearing tangible fruits and affirmed that MSU was ready to strengthen this collaboration for a safe use of technologies for the socio-economic development of the African continent.