Participants at the just-ended five-day study tour to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, have appealed to African leaders to as a matter of urgency honour their pledge of contributing one per cent of their GDP to Research and Development.
The one percent contribution of their GDP would be invested into science, technology, and innovation to realise the Agenda 2063, “the Africa we want”.
Participants were in Ethiopia to learn from Ethiopia’s experience in fostering an enabling environment for genome editing and its regulations.
The tour organised by the African Union Development Agency -NEPAD (AUDA-NEPAD) in collaboration with the Ethiopian Bio and Emerging Technology Institute (BETin) brought together 20 representatives from member states where an appraisal of existing infrastructure and capacity for biotechnology and genome editing were being conducted.
The study tour enabled participants from Ethiopia, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi to learn from Ethiopia’s experience in fostering an enabling environment on genome editing and its regulations.
Participants comprised of Scientists, researchers, policy makers, regulators, and the media, praised Ethiopia for their dedication and advancement in research and development, science, technology, and innovation, and for leading the way in achieving the “African we want.”
Sharing their experiences, Dr Deckster Tonny Savadye, Chief Executive Officer and Registrar of Zimbabwe’s National Biosafety Authority commended the Prime Minister of Ethiopia for spearheading and being the driver of the country’s Science Technology and Innovation.
He noted that with political will, everything was possible, and Africans needed to collaborate to scale up with the technology for the people to benefit.
“All we need to do is to package the science for the people to adopt the technology and ensure that it is demand driven for industries,” he added.
Dr Christopher Simuntala a Scientist and Regulator with the Zambian Biosafety Authority praised Ethiopia for being a model for Africa in genome editing and biotechnology using the local resources and local human resources to achieve greater heights on the continent.
He said the leaders of Ethiopia have indeed exhibited high political will and have also demonstrated to the world that it is doable, and Africa has the capability to change the narrative.
“I can see that there is great hope for Africa. Africa has all it takes to feed the entire world, whether in health biotechnology, food biotechnology and whatever area. All we need is for our leaders to drive the science, support research and development and implement the pledge of contributing one percent of the GDP to support the AU Agenda 2063,” he added.
Mr Zenzo Malaza, Senior Communications Officer of the Royal Park and Technology of the Kingdom of Eswatini reiterated the need for African leaders to invest in research, science, and technology, adding, “our scientists must work in collaboration with the research institutions to develop products that are demand driven by the industries. By so doing, we will be making the continent a better place for all of us.”
Mr Samuel Acheampong Molecular Biotechnologist from the University of Cape Coast called on African leaders to be at the forefront and lead the way in providing the needed infrastructure and other resources to improve science and technology, which will put Africa on the world map.
He called on African leaders to put more resources into research and development to realise the “Africa we Want,’ adding, “Without science, Africa will not go anywhere. African leaders should keep the promise of putting one per cent of their GDP into science, technology and innovation and believe in the science.”
Mr Abel Sephase, a Molecular Biotechnologist from Malawi called for the need to build a good relationship and coordination between scientists and researchers and help mentor and motivate the young generation to be inventors and innovators.
Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha Director-General of the Nigeria Biosafety Authority noted that Africa had a brighter future for science based on what Ethiopia had initiated.
“What Ethiopia has been able to do in genome editing and biotechnology, Ethiopia to train more of the younger generation for sustainability and scale up the deliverables.
“Agriculture is the backbone of development of every country and there is the need to see what Ethiopia has done as a prototype for all Africans to emulate, he added.
Ms Florence Nazare, AUDA-NEPAD Acting Director and Head of Excellence Knowledge Management and Programme Education Director acknowledged the fact that Africa was at the crossroads and there was a need for industrialisation.
“Africa is calling on us for AfCTA to take off and this can only happen if we push for innovation to transform lives. Science and technology should be at the forefront,” he said.
Dr Kassahun Tesfaye, Director General BETin said: “We must Africanise some of the technologies including genome editing to address the problems of food security”.
“Our scientists are dedicated, committed and poised for action, all we need is for our leaders to provide us with the quality infrastructure and the needed resources to work with,” he added.
Jeremie Ouedraogo a journalist with the Planet Agriculture Magazine of Burkina Faso and Ms Veronica Mwaba, journalist and the Executive Director of Dziwa Science and Technology Trust of Zambia, acknowledged the important role of the media and called on AUDA-NEPAD to empower the media with the requisite knowledge on genome editing while researchers and scientists in the various member states involve the media in the activities.
“As journalists, the nutrients we need for our growth is information. If we are well equipped with the needed information, we will play our unique role to educate the public as well as duty bearers to make Africa a better place for all.”