ABNE sets up African Biosafety Communication Network 

By Abdallah el-Kurebe 

The African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE), an arm of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) has launched the African Biosafety Communication Network.

The Network, launched on 18 July, 2017 in Entebbe during the Africa Ag-biotech and Biosafety Communication (ABBC) symposium, is aimed to optimise the biosafety communication sector across the continent.

The launch of the Network was chaired by the Director of NEPAD Agency’s West Africa Regional Office, Dr Jeremy Ouedraogo and co-chaired by the Chairman of the Uganda National Biosafety Committee, Dr. Charles Mugoya.

Othes were Dr Theresa Ssengoba from the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology; Dr Douglas Buhler, Director/Assistant Vice-president and Administrative leader of Michigan State University AgBioResearch, and Margaret Karembu, Director of ISAAA Africenter. 

In his opening remarks, Ouedraogo said: “After almost a decade of biosafety capacity enhancing to help build functional biosafety regulatory systems across the continent, NEPAD Agency ABNE is now strategically focusing on fostering proactive initiatives through specific experts networks to help African countries safely harness science, technology and innovation opportunities. 

“The communication network we are establishing today come after a successful implementation of other networks, namely the lawyers network, the food and feed safety network, the environmental network and the socio-economic network recently established in Accra,” he said.

On his part, Mugoya said that the formation of the Network was timely especially as Uganda was preparing to pass the biosafety bill. “This network is very timely, as Uganda’s parliament is preparing to pass the biosafety bill and we look forward to working with the members of this network to improve public understanding of biosafety in the country.”

According to the report, the key objectives of the African biosafety communication network include “to identify and support key biosafety media specialists in African countries and help them develop/update/implement country communication strategy; to help harmonise and optimise partners and service providers’ initiatives to build a strong and effective biosafety communication network in Africa; 

“to effectively monitor outputs and outcomes of the support provided to the network and identify gaps and needs; to implement functional information sharing platforms for network members (Web pages, mailing list, social media and online resources etc.); and to provide timely communication assistance to countries especially in coordination with the Association of National Biosafety Agencies in Africa (ANBAA) for issue management, dissemination of sound research findings and benefits etc.”

The Network will have partners that include the Association of National Biosafety Agencies in Africa  (ANBAA), the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), the Michigan State University, Network of Biotechnology and Biosafety Journalists in West Africa (RECOAB), African Journalists Network for Agriculture (based in Nigeria), Network of Science Communication Journalists in Togo, Uganda and in other countries, other networks and service providers operating in the biosafety sector in Africa. 

It added that members of the network would include Communication Specialists of biosafety service providers in Africa, communication persons from the National Biosafety Authorities, members of national/regional science/biosafety communication networks and other relevant candidates.

The network plans to implement a mailing group by August, 2017 and organise a workshop that would agree on draft network statutes and memorandum, including the annual work plan for 2018.

Sixty participants, including government officials, communications specialists, National Biosafety Committee (NBC) representatives and staff from various biosafety service providers in Africa took part in this event. 

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