Freedom to Innovate: Biotechnology in Africa's Development
Report of the High-Level African Panel on Modern Biotechnology
Authors: Calestous Juma, Professor of the Practice of International Development; Director, Science, Technology, and Globalization Project; Principal Investigator, Agricultural Innovation in Africa, Ismail Serageldin
This report is about the role of biotechnology in the transformation of African economies. The implications of its recommendations, however, need to be seen beyond the confines of biological innovations. They address critical issues related to Africa's place in a globalizing economy.
Undertaken at the request of heads of state and government this report demonstrates what is needed to build the required capacity to harness and apply biotechnologies to improve agricultural productivity, public health, industrial development, economic competitiveness, and environmental sustainability (including biodiversity conservation) in Africa. It also shows that the measures needed to address biotechnology will strengthen Africa's capacity to adapt other technologies to economic development. In fact, previous inabilities to build capacity in fields such as information technology hamper the continent's efforts in biotechnology. This report has placed these systemic considerations in the context of the role of innovation in economic transformation. It challenges Africa's heads of state and government to take seriously the importance of a coordinated approach in promoting technological innovation in development.
African governments have recognized the importance of regional cooperation to address possibilities and the range of issues associated with biotechnology. Within the framework of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) they have resolved to promote programmes that will generate a critical mass of technological expertise in targeted areas that can exploit high growth potential from biotechnology to develop Africa's rich biodiversity, improve agricultural productivity and develop healthcare products. In the context of the African Union (AU), African leaders resolved to take a common approach to address issues pertaining to modern biotechnology and biosafety by calling for an African common position on biotechnology.
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