AUDA-NEPAD ABNE Technical Advisory Committee successfully held their 11th annual meeting in Nairobi

The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) of AUDA-NEPAD African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE) successfully held its 11th annual meeting from 5 – 6 December in Nairobi, Kenya.
The meeting was chaired by Dr Dave Keetch from South Africa, Chair of the TAC. Were present in this meeting prof Magdy Madkour, Emeritus professor at Ain Shams university/Egypt, Dr Yaa Osei retired Lecturer from Kwame Nkrumah University Of Science and Technology, Prof. Charudatta D. Mayee from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), Dr Franck Fear from Michigan State University/USA, Mr Lawrence Kent from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation/USA, Dr Yona Baguma from the National Agricultural Research Organisation/Uganda and Doug Buhler from MSU/USA. Were also present, as observers, members of ABNE management team: Mr Talla Kebe, Head of AUDA-NEPAD Directorate of Knowledge Management, Evaluation and Centres of Excellence, Dr Jeremy Tinga Ouedraogo, ABNE Director, and Dr Karim Maredia, from MSU/USA.

Group picture of TAC members and ABNE management team during the meeting. In the foreground Ms Miriam Rahedi from NEPAD/APRM Kenya Secretariat, host of the meeting, Dr Dave Keetch, TAC Chair, and Dr Yaa Osei, TAC member.

In his opening remarks, Dr Dave Keetch welcomed participants and commended the ABNE team for the preparation of the meeting and for the activities carried out in 2019. Welcome remarks were also given by Mr. Lawrence Kent, on behalf of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, major donor of the programme, and by Dr. Doug Buhler, from Michigan State University, technical partner of the ABNE programme.

The opening ceremony was followed by the presentation of ABNE Director’s Report and the Annual Technical Progress Report. A presentation of ABNE 2020 work plan, followed by discussions and comments, closed the first day sessions.

The second day of the meeting was dedicated to TAC deliberations and recommendations. Among its observations, TAC noted with enthusiasm the transformation of the NEPAD Agency into the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) and the fact that AUDA-NEPAD is now the continental development agency of the African Union with ABNE as the AU- Biosafety programme in the Centre of Excellence on Rural Resources and Food Systems. TAC also commended the management and staff of ABNE for “the good progress that has been made over the past year in strengthening functional biosafety systems in Africa and empowering African regulators and policy makers to make informed decisions on biosafety applications for Confined Field Trials, National Performance Trials and the Commercial Release of biotech crops.”
Noting the increasing interest among African states in the potential benefits to be derived from the use of various newly developed plant breeding techniques such as genome editing, gene drives, Zinc Finger Nucleases, TALENS, ODM and CRISPR Cas, TAC peculiarly recommended that attention be given to the development of a harmonised policy for AU member states on the regulation of the products derived from these new techniques. TAC also recommended that ABNE continue to maintain and expand its role as a reliable and objective biosafety service provider in Africa.