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9-Misc: Africa Union sets up biotechnology advisory panel



                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Africa Union sets up biotechnology advisory panel
        Not just GM crops: Biotechnologist in Senegal obtaining fungal
        spores for research
SOURCE: SciDev.Net, UK, by Kimani Chege
DATE:   21 Jul 2005

------------------- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/ -------------------


Africa Union sets up biotechnology advisory panel
Not just GM crops: Biotechnologist in Senegal obtaining fungal spores for
research

 [NAIROBI] A panel has been set up to advise the African Union on ways of
building capacity to apply and safely handle modern biotechnology.

The African Panel on Biotechnology includes senior scientists and
policymakers from across the continent. Its creation was announced on 30
June by the African Union and the New Partnership for Africa's
Development (NEPAD).

The panel will be co-chaired by a former vice-president of the World
Bank, Ismail Serageldin of Egypt, and Calestous Juma, the Kenyan former
executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biodiversity.

Its creation is "a clear sign the Africa Union is finally pushing Africa
towards science-led development" says Norah Olembo, executive director of
the African Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum, which promotes public
awareness of biotechnology solutions to Africa's problems.

Juma, also director of the Science, Technology and Globalization Project
at Harvard University in the United States, says the panel was created
with the view that Africa should stop "playing victim".

"Africa much take charge of its future and assess the usefulness of all
existing technological options for meeting its needs," Juma told SciDev.Net.

Launching the panel, Alpha Oumar Konare, chair of the African Union
Commission, said it showed "Africa's determination to take a common
informed approach to address issues pertaining to modern biotechnology
and its applications for health, agriculture, industry, mining and the
environment".

Juma says "important relevant research is being carried out in East
Africa on agriculture and in Egypt and South Africa on biomedical
research. Nigeria is an important player in a variety of fields".

"The challenge is how to make biotechnology relevant to local needs and
how to ensure that existing institutions meet this challenge," he says.

"More specifically, there is an urgent need to look at African
universities as vehicles of community development, and one of the key
technological opportunities for this is biotechnology."

The panel includes the Ghanaian environmental lawyer George Sarpong,
Samuel Nzietchu, director of the Algeria-based African Agency for
Biotechnology, and Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabhe, Africa's chief
negotiator for the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which governs the
international movement of genetically modified (GM) organisms.

Tewolde advocates a 'precautionary' approach to GM crops. Despite this,
Olembo, whose organisation supports using biotechnology solutions,
approves of his appointment.

"The composition of the panel is excellent," she told SciDev.Net.

"The tendency has been to see biotechnology in Africa narrowly in terms
of GM crops -- this should not be the case," said Olembo, pointing out
that biotechnology also has applications in other sectors such as health,
industry and the environment.

Olembo said the panel must appreciate Africa's need to increase capacity
to deal with all aspects of biotechnology -- from research and innovation,
to biosafety and intellectual property. This, said Olembo, would require
African countries to increase funding for biotechnology research and
development.

The NEPAD Science and Technology Office in Tshwane (formerly Pretoria),
South Africa, will coordinate the African Panel on Biotechnology's activities.


                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  African Union and NEPAD establish high-level panel on biotechnology
SOURCE: NEPAD Dialogue - Focus on Africa, Issue 97, additional information
DATE:   1 Jul 2005

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a. additional information for NEPAD Dialogue issue 97
African Union and NEPAD establish high-level panel on biotechnology

The African Union (AU) Commission and NEPAD have established a panel of
eminent scholars, industrialists and policy-makers, the African Panel on
Biotechnology (APB), to design an African policy and strategy for
biotechnology and to provide comprehensive and independent science policy
advice to the AU.

The appointment of the Panel was made by Dr. Alpha Oumar Konare,
Chairperson of the AU Commission and former President of Mali.

"The creation of this high-level advisory group is a clear manifestation
of Africa's determination to take a common informed approach to address
issues pertaining to modern biotechnology and its applications for
health, agriculture, industry, mining and the environment," Dr Konare said.

The APB will identify and recommend specific ways of building Africa's
capacities to apply and safely handle modern biotechnology.

It will be co-chaired by former World Bank Vice-President Dr. Ismail
Serageldin of Egypt and former Executive Secretary of United Nations
Convention on Biodiversity Prof. Calestous Juma of Kenya. Other members
include:
a. Africa's lead negotiator on biosafety Dr. Tewolde-Berhan Gebre-
Egziabher of Ethiopia,
b. University of Toronto bioethics scholar Prof. Abdallah Daar of Tanzania
c. Leading African women scientist and Vice-Chancellor of the University
of Swaziland Prof. Lydia Makhubu
d. Head of Biosafety at the Secretariat of the Convention on
Biodiversity, Dr. Cyriaque Sendashonga of Rwanda
e. Head of the Libyan National Centre for Standardisation, Dr. Ahmed Shembesh
f. Director of Senegal's Institute for Environmental Sciences, Prof.
Amadou Tidiane Ba
g. Leading African woman industrialist and manager, Mrs Dawn Mokhobo of
South Africa
h. Executive Director of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation
(AATF), Dr. Bokanga Mpoko of the Democratic Republic of Congo
i. Leading African environmental lawyer Prof. George Sarpong of Ghana
j. Executive Director of Pathfinder Foundation for Education and
Development and former NASA scientist, Dr. Cheick Diarra, and
k. Dr. Samuel Nzietchu, Director of the African Agency for Biotechnology
based in Algeria.

The APB will submit its recommendations to the AU Summit and is expected
to consider submissions from various stakeholder groups. Its operations
will be administered by the NEPAD Science and Technology Office in
Pretoria, South Africa. www.nepadst.org




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