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African Union Supports Malawi Gen Editing Communication Strategy

LILONGWE, Malawi 30th June, 2023 (AEJ) - The African Union Development Agency – NEPAD through its Centre of Excellence in Science, Technology, and Innovation has capacitated Malawi to develop first ever Genome Editing (Ged) national communication and advocacy strategy from 19th – 23rd June, 2023 that will scale up public awareness and build institutional capacity for research and development, technology transfer, resulting in an expanded portfolio and a more efficient utilization of innovation capacity to develop compelling products.

Genome Editing (GEd) project aims to foster a broader understanding of modern biotechnology focusing on GEd among different stakeholder groups through communication and advocacy for enhanced uptake of the tool to optimize agriculture in Africa.

The project builds on and complements ongoing AUDA-NEPAD efforts towards enhancing regulatory capacities on Biosafety through the African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE). While ABNE’s focus is on regulation to ensure biosafety, AUDA-NEPAD Centre of Excellence in Science, Technology, and Innovation brings in a focus on innovation, research and development capacities towards the commercialization of genome edited agricultural products thus contributing to rapid industrialisation.

The move to put up national communication strategies and advocacy strategy is based on the recognition contained in Agenda 2063 that technological advancements from biotechnological innovations in plant and animal breeding have the potential to advance continental agricultural sustainability goals and transform African societies. Agenda 2063 is the 50 year vision of the African Union development blue print to spur social economic development on the continent.

Speaking at Crossroads Hotel in Lilongwe AUDA – NEPAD Professor Olelakan Akinbo, began by thanking government of Malawi for giving the opportunity to implement the initiative. Akinbo added that a key element of Agenda 2063 is zero hunger and the need for Africa to embrace emerging technology adding that Gen editing in just one of the many technologies towards achieving that dream.

“Bringing in an initiative to achieve one of the aspirations in Agenda 2063 capacitate local scientists and farmers to improve agriculture productivity. This will help small scale farmers to produce optimally for food and for commercial purpose, in turn help to improve trade on the continent.” explained Akinbo.

He added that communication is key for an emerging technology that is taken to the farmer. “Communicating to the different stakeholders on a new technology being developing is important, if there is no communication they will be technophobia. Give me a crop that improves my need, that is communication. It is for this reason that we are doing it for us. Communication the right messages to the various stakeholder for that people to see their interest in the technology.”

Tawonga Mbale – Luka, Malawi’s Director of Environmental Affairs thanked AUDA – NEPAD for the Genome Editing capacity building programme adding the technology will help address the challenges facing the country in the sector of agriculture.

“I am happy to see that you have developed the communication and advocacy strategy for Genome Editing including an action plan. Over and above that, I am also excited to see there is a budget planned which gives me the assurance that the activities will be implemented. Mbale- Luka summed it up.

AUDA-NEPAD has successfully conducted GEd sensitization exercises and engagement with high level officials towards the buy-in of the tool in the following eight countries: Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Eswatini.

The development of the communication strategy and action plan will enhance public, government, private sector and media confidence in agricultural research and modern biotechnology. This is envisaged to help solidify the basis upon which the Government and other actors will effectively champion the upscaling of locally adapted genome editing and related products for commercialisation.

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Charles Mkoka
Charles Mkoka is one of AEJ News Editorial Production Crew

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