Ouagadougou – Malaria is spread by female mosquitoes that pick up the parasite from an infected person then inject it in to the blood of the next bitten person. Historically, this fact has been known for a long time and medicines to treat malaria as well as preventive measures have been developed, but they need to be supplemented in order to meet the African Union target to eliminate malaria by 2030. Currently, efforts are doubling-up to also focus more on the transmitter of malaria parasites, the mosquito. New tools are being developed through genetic engineering to reduce populations of mosquitoes in order to eliminate malaria in Africa.
On 1 June 2017, a team of experts from NEPAD Agency led by Prof Aggrey Ambali, Head of Industrialization, Science, Technology and Innovation paid a courtesy call on the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU/UEMOA) Secretariat in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso to facilitate dialogue towards concerted efforts in building regulatory capacities to effectively manage the genetic engineering innovation.
The call to WAEMU/UEMOA is very important as the development of this mosquito elimination technology should go hand in hand with sound regulatory systems so that Africa can benefit from the innovation, taking into account trans-boundary issues. In this case, a regional regulatory approach needs to be pursued in addition to the national regulatory systems approach.
The work will require building strong collaborative arrangements between countries and harmonising technical requirements and processes for regulating the innovation, the most practical being at regional level. Building on the experience gained from its two programmes, namely the African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE) and African Medicines Regulatory Harmonisation (AMRH), the NEPAD Agency will facilitate and coordinate the capacity building process at regional level. To this end, the NEPAD Agency has already established mechanisms for establishing joint working groups that can work at regional level on regulatory matters which will be adapted for this project.
During the courtesy call, the NEPAD Agency team had discussions with the Regional Programme Coordinator on Biosafety, Mr Saidou Kina who highlighted the progress and status of WAEMU/UEMOA on the development of regulations and guidelines for biosafety to date. Prof Ambali shared the importance of the recently concluded study tours to Colombia and Brazil for the health and environmental regulators from the West African region who participated and indicated that a follow-up meeting to share experiences from the study tour and develop best strategies will take place in Accra, Ghana. He further emphasised the importance of building a cadre of regulators in the region that can regulate the mosquito technology from environmental and health perspectives.
Harmonised guidelines and other technical documents for WAEMU/UEMOA are in advanced stages and are ready for regional consultation to cover the ECOWAS region. NEPAD Agency will collaborate with WAEMU/UEMOA and ECOWAS in order to integrate environmental and health regulatory requirements in to these regional guidelines and regulations. A request has already been considered to help facilitate harmonisation processes for regulating synthetic biology and gene drive technologies in the Regional Economic Communities on the continent.
Building regulatory systems for eliminating populations of mosquitoes through the NEPAD Agency platform will compliment processes at national, regional and continental levels, contributing to the eradication of malaria by 2030 in Africa.
Source: NEPAD Agency