In August 2007, the high-level African biotechnology experts lead by Prof Calestous Juma and Ismail Serageldin produced a very powerful report and submitted it to the appointing Authority, AU/NEPAD.
Almost a decade later, it is appropriate to ask:
- What became of this report?
- What is NEPAD doing about it?
The following were the key recommendations:
- Agricultural Biotechnology holds the promise of improving food security, and better nutrition. AU member states must invest in agricultural biotechnology to address long-term issues such as nutrient deficiency, and needed improvements to overall agricultural productivity.
- Animal Biotechnology can help develop diagnostic tests and vaccines for livestock diseases and infections that risk food insecurity. Animal biotechnology also provides information for managing indigenous animal genetic resources, improves nutritional quality of feed and fodder, enhances reproductive efficiency of livestock; and increases the reproduction of meat and milk through techniques such as cloning.
- Fisheries biotechnology can help to understand taxonomy and population structure questions in fishes, improve reproduction, health and nutritional qualities of fish feeds. Africa needs to invest in fisheries biotechnology in order to develop evidence-based fish-management programs and improve efficiency of producing fish in aquaculture.
- Forestry biotechnology can help AU member states in the sustainable use and conservation of forest resources. AU member states need to upgrade and expand the current forestry biotech programs.
- Healthcare biotechnology, AU member states need to study the major players contributing to innovation in health biotechnology; identify ways of joint decision-making among different ministries and analyze the linkages between macroeconomics and health.
- Industrial biotechnology: AU member states need to boost the development of the bio-fuels, and develop processes that convert waste into usable products. The region must develop a comprehensive industrial biotechnology R&D agenda and fast track its program to create an enabling environment for effective private sector participation in the development of biofuels.
- Environmental Biotechnology: AU member states and regions should more fully integrate environmental biotechnology into environmental protection strategies and policies, and launch pilot-scale production of environmentally friendly products including food, feed, fiber, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and products for biological management of pests.
With all these SMART recommendations, why is Africa still far behind other continents in all aspects of Biotech R&D. To the best of my knowledge only South Africa has a bio-economy strategic plan. A number of environment ministries are a stumbling block to biotechnology uptake in Africa because they are hostage of groups like Greenpeace. Isn’t it time for African biotechnology experts to demand to be head by the AU summit over this matter?