Regional Approach to Control Mosquitoes that transmit Diseases in Africa

In Accra from the 5th to the 8th of June 2017, a team from the NEPAD Agency led by Professor Aggrey Ambali, Head of Industrialization, Science, Technology and Innovation (ISTI) is meeting with these regulators from four West Africa countries (Burkina Faso, Ghana, Senegal, Mali) and Uganda to discuss and formulate a preliminary regional approach to the control of disease transmitting mosquitoes in the region, building on their experiences during a study tour to South America. Mosquitoes of the genus Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus are responsible for the transmission of arboviruses responsible for Yellow fever, Chikungunya, Zika virus, Dengue, Malaria and Rift Valley Fever. These diseases are increasingly becoming a global public health concern due to their rapid spread. In April 2017, regulators and other senior government officials from five countries (Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal) in the ECOWAS region with Tanzania and Uganda were on a study tour, organised by the NEPAD Agency and Danforth Centre, to Brazil and Colombia, to gain practical exposures to integrated disease transmitting mosquito control programs in those countries and understand their regulatory requirements and processes, as well as assess their effectiveness. The regulators and NEPAD Agency staff are discussing experiences from the study tour and identification of approaches that can be adopted for a regional programme on regulatory strengthening. The topics covered include technology development and transfer, regulatory capacity strengthening, inter-sectoral collaboration, south-south collaboration, advocacy and policy articulation, community engagement, and leveraging political will and commitment. The essence of regional harmonisation in disease control activities cannot be overlooked, as the mobile nature of mosquitoes makes it more practical for...

Eliminating malaria in Africa by 2030, by reducing the population of mosquitos

Ouagadougou – Malaria is spread by female mosquitos (vectors) that pick up the parasite from an infected person then inject it in to the blood of the next person being bitten. Historically, this fact has been known for a long time and medicines to treat malaria have been developed. Currently efforts are doubling-up to also focus more on the cause of malaria, the mosquito. New tools are being developed through genetic alteration to control mosquitoes and eradicate malaria. On 01 June 2017, a team of experts led by Prof. Aggrey Ambali paid a courtesy call on the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) Secretariat in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso to facilitate the necessary dialogue to allow for concerted efforts in building regulatory capacities to effectively manage this innovation. This courtesy call to UEMOA is very important because gene drive technology for malaria vector control involves organisms that are mobile. Therefore, regulation of transgenic insects will have to take into account trans-boundary issues. In this case, a regional regulatory approach needs to be pursued in addition to the national regulatory systems approach. This will require building strong collaborative arrangements between countries and harmonizing technical requirements and processes for regulating transgenic insects, the most practical being at regional level. NEPAD Agency already has established mechanisms for establishing joint working groups that can work at regional level on regulatory matters which will be adapted for this project. During the courtesy call, the NEPAD Agency team of experts had discussions with the Regional Programme Coordinator on Biosafety, Mr. Saidou Kina who highlighted the progress and status of WAEMU regulation to date. Prof. Ambali...

Biosafety high level consultative meeting in Nairobi

The NEPAD Agency African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE) in conjunction with the Program for Biosafety Systems and The National Biosafety Authority held a high policy Consultation in Nairobi, on 12th May, 2017 to discuss the process regarding the handling of biosafety dossiers in Kenya. This meeting brought together stakeholders including Kenya National Biosafety Authority (NBA), the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA), Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Organization (KALRO), the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Ministry of Agriculture, and Kenya Plant health inspectorate Service (KEPHIS). The Principal Secretary from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, and representatives from the office of the Deputy President was also in attendance. In 2016, the NBA gave a conditional approval for Bt maize and Bt cotton applications for general release and recommended that they commence the National Performance Trials (NPT) under auspices of KEPHIS. One of the key conditions was that the applicant should conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of experimental sites and submits report to NEMA for approval before conducting the NPT. The applicant submitted the EIA report as required but to date no decision has been made on the NPT. The representative of the NEMA emphasized that the EIA report should be site specific not combined report as it was submitted by the applicant. Delegates from South Africa response gave a different view on the issue of EIA as requested by NBA through NEMA that in South Africa EIA is only required for the crops that are indigenous and that thus far all the approval already given in South Africa, no...

Deliberations on Biosafety Capacity Development in Africa

NEPAD Agency’s African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE), in partnership with Croplife, the International Food Policy Research Institute’s (IFPRI) programme for Biosafety Systems, together with other partners, organised a Stakeholders’ Coordination Meeting on Biosafety Capacity Development in Africa from May 3-4, 2017, in Yaoundé, Cameroon. Attended by about 50 participants, the meeting was officially opened by Mr Akwa Patrick Kum Bong, Secretary General of the Ministry of Environment and the Protection of Nature in Cameroon. “The current trend is to use modern technologies in agriculture, pharmaceuticals and related sectors. That is why we think this meeting is very useful for Cameroon. We currently have a biosafety project that builds the capacity of Cameroonians in the handling of biosafety in the country. This project will build both human and infrastructure capacity in the country with the support of partners,” the Secretary General said. The objective of the meeting was to bring together leading biotechnology and biosafety stakeholders, as well as providers of technical assistance to share experiences and analyse the key capacity building needs and emerging challenges regarding the development and implementation of workable regulatory frameworks, both at national and sub-regional levels across the continent. The meeting also aimed to strengthen alignment among biosafety service providers and stakeholders to build future collaborative efforts in biosafety capacity development, in addition to identifying actions and responsibilities among partners to implement functional biosafety regulations in...

Biosafety Capacity Strengthening in Ethiopia

NEPAD Agency ABNE, in partnership with the Ethiopian Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and COMESA/ACTESA, organized a biosafety training workshop for regulators, researchers, policy makers and other stakeholders from 10 – 13 April 2017 in Addis Ababa. The workshop was officially opened by Dr. Gemedo Dale, Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. Fifty-nine participants drawn from various institutions attended the training workshop. The training provided insights on the amended biosafety proclamation and biosafety directives, the procedures for approval for CFT of a GM crop event focusing on environmental risk assessment for CFT, the procedures for approval for environmental release of a GM crop event and GM crop variety for cultivation, and the environmental and food safety risk assessment of a GM crop event for deregulation. Regulating modern agricultural biotechnology, especially genetically engineered crops requires involvement of and close collaboration and interaction among important inter-sectoral actors that includes personnel from ministries such as environment, agriculture, industry, trade, health, education and justice and also various research institutions in the country. The training workshop brought personnel from these diverse institutions. Ethiopia has made significant progress in the development and implementation of a workable biosafety regulation over the last few years. The country has amended its Biosafety Proclamation and revised its Biosafety Directives. This has enabled Ethiopia to conduct field trials of Bt cotton in the main cropping season of 2016. Bringing regulators and other important stakeholders in a single biosafety training forum would, in addition to imparting skills on biotechnology regulation, enhance interaction and consensus building and, in the end, help achieve...

Functional biosafety systems enable safe development of biotechnology in Swaziland

NEPAD Agency ABNE in partnership with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Swaziland Environmental Authority organized a training workshop on Risk Analysis and Regulatory Compliance Monitoring and Inspection for GMOs, from 27-29 March, 2017 in Ezulwini, Swaziland. The objectives of the training were to build capacity of the Swaziland Environmental Authority on Risk Analysis covering assessment, management and communication aspects. Twenty-five biosafety regulators and research officers took part in this training workshop. In his official opening remarks Mr. Isaac Dladla, the Acting Executive Director of the Swaziland Environment Authority (SEA), described the training as timely coming at a time when Swaziland was preparing for a parliamentary hearing on the draft amended biosafety Act. In his remarks, Seemilo Mavimbela, representing the Chairperson of the National Biosafety Advisory Council (NBAC), said his organization’s role was to advise SEA on biosafety issues to find a balance between environmental protection and the safe use of modern biotechnology. He said the NBAC had advised on the approval of field trials on Bt cotton in 2016 and thus the workshop would further enhance confidence for similar advice. The Principal Program Officer at the NEPAD/ Africa Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE), Dr. Silas Obukosia, underlined that Malawi, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Swaziland are in advanced stages of approving agri-biotech products. “This progress requires continuous regulatory capacity building, and this workshop is part of that capacity building objective in Swaziland,” he added. COMESA Senior Biotechnology Policy Advisor Dr. Getachew Belay commended Swaziland for the progress it has made in creating an enabling policy and regulatory environment The workshop included field visits to Bt...

NEPAD Agency CEO visits NEPAD’s West Africa Regional Office

NEPAD Agency CEO, Dr Ibrahim Hassane Mayaki, paid a visit to NEPAD’s West Africa regional office in Dakar on the sideline of the tenth joint annual meetings of the African Union Specialized Technical Committee on Finance, Monetary Affairs, Economic Planning and Integration and the Economic Commission for Africa’s Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, which was to take place from 23 to 28 March, 2017. The CEO was accompanied by Ms Sarah Lawan, Lead Manager of The Sustainable Development Goals Center for Africa and Ms Pamla Gopaul from the Office of the CEO. Dr. Mayaki was welcomed by Dr. Jeremy Ouedraogo, Head of the Regional Office and some of the NEPAD staff in Dakar. This visit was an opportunity for the CEO to see the new premises which staff will be moving to by the end of March, 2017. Dr Mayaki, expressed his satisfaction with the new office and encouraged staff to continue to closely work with the head office for more effectiveness and visibility of NEPAD action in the...

Meeting with the Committee for Science and Technology of the Uganda Parliament

NEPAD Agency ABNE was invited to present its views on the Uganda National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill 2012 (NBBB), to the Committee for Science and Technology of the Uganda Parliament (PCST) in North Wing of the Parliament Building. The team was led by Sunday Akile, the legal expert accompanied by Silas Obukosia and Wolde Sinebo. They took the opportunity of this presentation to highlight the strengths of the bill that is clearly in line with international related protocols and also with Agenda 2063 as a collective vision and roadmap of the African Union for the next fifty years. The content of the presentation also included the role of ABNE in biosafety in Africa, the definition and interpretation of NBBB, the institutional Framework, the separation of greenhouse/laboratory approval from CFT, MLTs and general release approval, provisions on expedited reviews of applications, risk and safety assessment, restoration order, period taken for a determination to be made on an application. Concurrent with ABNE presentation were presentations from the Uganda Cotton Development Authority (CDA) and Uganda National Environment Management Agency (NEMA). Uganda scientific community has been struggling to get the revised biosafety bill passed since 2012, to allow safe and effective implementation of biotechnology and biosafety in the country. Uganda is one of the African countries that have done the most diverse and successful confined field trials (CFT) of genetically modified food commodities. CFTs implemented in the country mainly target banana, maize, cassava, cotton, rice, and Irish potato. Yet these trials could not go beyond this stage, as the existing law in the country allows only the conduct of GMO research. It does...

Visit to Bt Cotton Confined Field Trials in Ethiopia

A team from NEPAD Agency ABNE and Michigan State University carried out a field visit to Bt cotton confined field trials at Werer, in the Afar region, East Ethiopia, on November 21, 2016. Here, in a zone of vast plains in the Rift Valley and its endless chains of mountains, the country is testing its first Bt cotton seeds in the field concomitantly with 5 other sites across the country. Agriculture in Ethiopia employs around 85% of the population and the country strives today to cope with periodic droughts and soil degradation caused by overgrazing, deforestation, and high population density. The Government of Ethiopia has seen cotton as a strategically important commodity crop to supply raw material for the rapidly growing textile sector. However, the cotton sector is undermined by pest attacks, and the production of conventional cotton, despite intensive use of pesticide, could not meet the needs of the flourishing textile industry. Ethiopia, therefore, has been looking at other production methods in the last few years and is particularly interested in plant breeding techniques and biotechnology solutions experimented in other parts of Africa and the world. “Cotton is becoming very important in Ethiopia because of the expanding textile industry. However cotton production is facing a major problem due to pest attacks mainly by the African bollworms and other sucking insects” affirmed Dr. Endale Gebre, Director for agricultural biotechnology research in the Ethiopian Institute of Agriculture Research (EIAR). “Bollworms being the major threat on cotton production in the country, we are now trying to screen varieties that are resistant to this pest thanks to the Bt trait incorporated in...

NEPAD Agency ABNE’s Technical Advisory Committee meeting in Kampala

Members of ABNE’s Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) held their 8th annual meeting from 17 to 19 November, 2016 in Kampala, Uganda. On the eight members of the ABNE’s TAC, six attended the meeting chaired by Dr David Keetch from South Africa. They scrutinized ABNE reports and work plans and made recommendations This year, the meeting was organized in Kampala and TAC members had the opportunity to visit two local biotechnology research centres and to assess progress made in the biotechnology and biosafety sector in Uganda. Every year, NEPAD Agency ABNE prepares annual technical and financial reports and submits them to the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) for accountability and effectiveness purpose. Workplans and budget for the upcoming year have to be also approved by TAC before implementation. TAC members amended ABNE reports and workplans as planned and made clear recommendations. They first commended ABNE for the successful implementation of the recommendations made for the year 2016. They particularly appreciated the improvement of the financial and administrative arrangements, the smooth transition of leadership, the progress made in activity implementation in 2016 and the particular efforts made in countries like Ethiopia. Among the key recommendations made for 2017, TAC members highlighted the need for continued focus on 10 African countries that need particular assistance for the GM crops confined field trials or commercial release process they have engaged in. While focusing on these 10 countries, ABNE should continue to be responsive to emerging opportunities in other interested AU member states, taking into consideration the geographical balance. TAC members also insisted that ABNE strengthens its partnership with other service providers in the biosafety...