A new African Biosafety Communication Network to optimize efforts in the biosafety communication sector

Under the auspices of NEPAD Agency ABNE, an African Biosafety Communication Network was launched on 18 July, 2017 in Entebbe during the Africa Ag-biotech and Biosafety Communication (ABBC) symposium.
The launching ceremony was chaired by Dr Jeremy Ouedraogo, Director of NEPAD Agency’s West Africa Regional Office in Dakar. It was co-chaired by Dr. Charles Mugoya, Chair of the Uganda National Biosafety Committee, Dr Theresa Ssengoba from the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology, Dr Douglas Buhler, Director/Assistant Vice-president and Administrative leader of Michigan State University AgBioResearch, and Margaret Karembu, Director of ISAAA Africenter. Around 60 people, including government officials, communications specialists, NBC representatives and staff from various biosafety service providers in Africa took part in this event.

L to R: Dr Margaret Karembu, Dr Douglas Buhler, Dr Jeremy Ouedraogo, Dr. Charles Mugoya and Dr Theresa Ssengoba during the launching ceremony

“After almost a decade of biosafety capacity enhancing to help build functional biosafety regulatory systems across the continent, NEPAD Agency ABNE is now strategically focusing on fostering proactive initiatives through specific experts networks to help African countries safely harness science technology and innovation opportunities. The communication network we are establishing today come after a successful implementation of other networks, namely the lawyers network, the food and feed safety network, the environmental network and the socioeconomic network recently established in Accra”, said Dr Jeremy Ouedraogo in his opening remarks.

Participants during the launching of the African Biosafety Communication Network

“This network is very timely, as Uganda’s parliament is preparing to pass the biosafety bill and we look forward to working with the members of this network to improve public understanding of biosafety in the country”, said Dr. Charles Mugoya.

The key objectives of the African biosafety communication network are: to identify and support key biosafety media specialists in African countries and help them develop/update/implement country communication strategy; to help harmonize and optimize partners and service providers’ initiatives to build a strong and effective biosafety communication network in Africa; to effectively monitor outputs and outcomes of the support provided to the network and identify gaps and needs; to implement functional information sharing platforms for network members (Web pages, mailing list, social media and online resources etc.); and to provide timely communication assistance to countries especially in coordination with the Association of National Biosafety Agencies in Africa (ANBAA) for issue management, dissemination of sound research findings and benefits etc.

Participants during the launching of the African Biosafety Communication Network

Partners of the network include ANBAA, ISAAA, Michigan State University, Network of biotechnology and biosafety journalists in West Africa (RECOAB), African Journalists Network for Africa (based in Nigeria), Network of science communication journalists in Togo, Uganda and in other countries, other networks and service providers operating in the biosafety sector in Africa.
Members and potential members of the network will include Communication Specialists of biosafety service providers in Africa, communication persons from the National Biosafety Authorities, members of national/regional science/biosafety communication networks and any other relevant candidate.
In the upcoming months, the network plans to implement a mailing group by August, 2017 and to organize a workshop to agree on draft network statutes and memoranda, and the annual workplan for the next year.