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  • Writer's pictureBioAfrica Spotlight

BioAfrica and their mission to advance the Biotechnology Industry in Africa



About BioAfrica: The BIO Africa Digital Platform aims to foster a collaborative network and provide access to resources and information to support the bio-economy. A key objective of the platform is to provide a marketplace for innovations, ideas and biotechnology products that are geared to address the disruptions to global value chains. The BioAfrica Convention is led by AfricaBio, an independent, non-profit biotechnology stakeholders' Association for the safe, ethical, and responsible research, development, and application of biotechnology and its products.

 

A recent post in Nature indicated that the climate crisis will generate a mounting need for technological solutions to support the food security needs of Africa https://www.nature.com/articles/d44148-022-00106-8


With the mounting volatility in global temperatures, coupled with changes in rainfall patterns, agriculture is threatened by an increase in botanical disease outbreaks in addition to unpredictable growing seasons. In fact, the UN indicated that specific to Africa, if the current situation persists, the continent will be fulfilling only 13% of its food needs by 2050.[1]. This situation will further threaten about 65% of African workers who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods including children and the elderly, who are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity. Furthermore, according to Fan & Rue (2020), more than 80% (475 million) of the world’s farms operate on less than two hectares of land. Although these farms account for only 12% of the world’s farmland, they provide an estimated 80% of the food produced in Asia and in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA)[2]


Notably, climate change has propelled the spread of disease, such as banana fungal disease, which is just one of many plant pandemics. “We're living on borrowed time,” says Wijnand Swart, a plant pathologist at the University of Free State (UFS) in South Africa. “We're only just discovering what can happen when temperatures reach extremes. Stressed plants are susceptible to secondary opportunistic pathogens, and climate change creates opportunities for new diseases which previously didn't affect plants. Coffee, rice, yams, cassava, pumpkin, and wheat are some of the staple crops that will be affected.” Besides pathogens, there are grave concerns about the vectors that carry them. Swarms of insects are flying to warmer areas, carrying viral diseases with the potential to wipe out entire crops. “Humans are also vectors, carrying spores on their shoes and clothes, making biosecurity the most critical issue,” adds Swart. Pest outbreaks have increased in frequency, and are responsible for up to 40% of maize, potato, rice, soybean, and wheat crop yield losses worldwide, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). It is a catastrophic situation in a world where food insecurity is already the reality for more than 800 million people. “Few institutions in Africa are equipped with the resources and human capacity to undertake disease diagnosis and management,” says plant geneticist Eric Danquah, the founding director of the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI). “Despite the technologies, research, and products to help agriculture to maintain integrated management and farming practices, pathogens continue to significantly reduce crop productivity.”


Fortunately, there have been some advances in monitoring systems which have boosted capacity for disease diagnosis. “As far back as 15 years ago in Uganda, someone could take a photo of a plant, send it to a central center, and get a disease diagnosis. There's excellent research being done in places like South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda by researchers who are at the cutting edge of science, but because of a lack of resources and constraints in rolling solutions out to communities, we can't compete with the US and Europe.”


Indeed, Biotechnology driven enterprises have been advancing rapidly in Africa, thanks in large part to the advances that Africa has made in its Entrepreneurship and research ecosystems, such as AfricaBio and its annual BioAfrica conventions. A large component of BioAfrica is their BIO Africa Digital Platform, which, “aims to foster a collaborative network and provide access to resources and information to support the bio-economy and … to provide a marketplace for innovations, ideas and biotechnology products that are geared to address the disruptions to global value chains.”


Schumpeter Circle is a major advocate of innovation, and encourage startups and Entrepreneurs to participate in the Africa Health ExCon, taking place between the 6th-9th June 2023, in Cairo, Egypt.



 

About AfricaBio's President, Dr. Nhlanhla Msomi: Dr Msomi has had a varied career spanning R & D, academia, innovation management, policy work, corporate finance and entrepreneurship. He is currently the Group CEO of MSQ Health, a subsidiary of Safika Holdings. He has spent the past 16 years as a senior executive in a number of organisations, including public and private entrepreneurial companies. In the Technology Innovation Agency he played the role of founding CEO as in LIFElab, a Biotech Venture Fund. He also sat on the inaugural Investment Committee of the Southern African Intellectual Property Fund (managed by Triumph Venture Capital). He is a co-author of three seminal Manuals/Reports: Ethical and Legal Guidelines for Biotechnology Research in South Africa (2006); National Bioeconomy Strategy (2013) and Report of the National Consensus Panel on Biosecurity and Biosafety (2015).

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