Freedom to Innovate: Biotechnology in Africa's Development
Draft Report of the High-Level African Panel on Modern Biotechnology of the African Union (AU) and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD)
FROM THE EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The history of Africa has been marked by a unique development narrative in which science, technology and innovation have often been viewed as a preserve for a select few rather than as tools for development in negative terms. But this narrative is starting to change and African leaders are starting to view science, technology and innovation as critical to human development, global competitiveness and ecological management. In a new vision for the continent, African leaders are focusing on measures that promote their "freedom to innovate" in all fields of human endeavour in general and in science and technology in particular. It is in this context that the findings and subsequent implementation of the recommendations of the High- Level African Panel on Modern Biotechnology of the African Union and the New Economic Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) should be viewed.
The outcome of the work of the panel is the nurturing of "regional innovation communities" involving groups of countries in eastern, western, northern and southern Africa operating in the framework of designated Regional Economic Communities (RECs). The innovation communities may be anchored in "local innovation areas" with clusters of capabilities in agricultural, health, industrial and environmental biotechnologies. The strategies will be implemented through RECs whose capacity will in turn need to be strengthened.
To elaborate on this focus, the report: (a) outlines the role of technology in general and modern biotechnology in particular in regional economic integration and trade; (b) outlines priority areas in modern biotechnology of relevance to African development; (c) identifies critical capabilities needed for the development and safe use of modern biotechnology; (d) specifies harmonized regulatory measures needed for advancing research and commercialization, safe use and trade; and (e) proposes strategic options for creating and building regional biotechnology innovation communities and local innovation areas in Africa.
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