By Mekonnen Teshome

The Centre of Excellence in Science, Technology, and Innovation of the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD (AUDA-NEPAD) is supporting Ethiopian Bio and Emerging Technology Institute (BETin) to develop a national genome editing communication strategy.

The national strategy development effort which is also meant to institutionalize level experience sharing has brought about biotechnology and media experts together to design the national communication strategy and associated plan of action which is scheduled to be validated at the beginning of 2023.

Opening the strategy writing workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopian Bio & Emerging Technology Institute (BETin) Director General Dr. Kassahun Tesfaye underscored that without a proper communication scheme in place, it is difficult to fully utilize the science of biotechnology in general and genome editing in particular to enhance the efficacy and productivity of various economic sectors.

Ethiopian Bio & Emerging Technology Institute (BETin); Director General Dr. Kassahun Tesfaye

The Director General said, “Efforts to encourage stakeholders to participate in the evidence-based discussions coupled with awareness-raising activities should be given due emphasis at all levels, ranging from the general public to policymakers.”

Dr. Kassahun attributed the effort of crafting proper communication strategies and schemes to the emergency and prospect of genome editing as well as the growing efforts of research and development (R&D) and commercialization of other biotech crops in Ethiopia including the de-regulating and commercialized of Bt cotton; releasing of TELA Maize for drought and stem borer; the genetic transformation activity initiated on Enset; the granting of Confined Field Trail Research Permit for GM Potato for blight ; upgrading of the Agricultural Biotech Lab at Holeta National Biotech Research Center (NABRC-EIAR); the launching of Striga Smart Sorghum for Africa project to use Genome Editing on the preferred cultivar of sorghum among others.

The representative of the African Biosafety Network of Expertise, AUDA-NEPAD, Dr. Woldeyesus Sinebo, during the occasion indicated that inclusive growth and sustainable development as enunciated in the AU Agenda 2063 requires the harnessing of existing and emerging technologies such as genome editing.

He emphasized that communicating genome editing to key stakeholders including decision makers is important to avoid the prospect of Africa lagging behind in adopting genome editing applications to enhance agricultural development and economic growth.

The other representative of AUDA-NEPAD Centre of Excellence in Science, Technology, and Innovation Dr. Olalekan Akinbo on his part said that the role of his institution is to facilitate the writing of the Genome Editing Communication Strategy by Ethiopian Experts to use them by themselves so as to transform the national agricultural sector and to ensure its sustainability and finally to create a prosperous nation for the future generation.

The concept note document of the communication strategy states; “Following the successful Genome Editing sensitization exercise that included engagement with high-level officials towards the buy-in of the tool in the following six countries: Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Zambia and Eswatini, a writing workshop will be held as the next step to draft and develop responsive National Communication Strategies and Action Plans for validation by stakeholders.”