What's on this page?
On this page you can find out more about ABI’s aims and vision. You can also find out more about the work being done under ABI and indeed the progress made so far.
What is ABI?
The NEPAD/African Biosciences Initiative is a cluster of three of the 12 NEPAD Science and Technology flagship programmes areas, namely biodiversity science and technology, biotechnology and indigenous knowledge systems.
Biosciences are seen as one of the major engines of growth in the world in fields such as human health, industrial processes, environment and agriculture. Africa lags behind in biosciences. The two key problems are lack of sufficient funding from governments and shortage of skilled expertise. The problem is exacerbated by the lack of private sector activity to support and initiate research and take up products and processes that are the outcome of projects.
NEPAD/African Biosciences Initiative (NEPAD/ABI) focuses on harnessing biological applications in the health, agriculture, environment and mining sectors. Its strategic objectives are to:
- Address African problems in agriculture, health, and environment through the application of bioscience technologies
- Use new developments in biosciences to protect the environment and conserve biodiversity in Africa
- Build and strengthen human capacity in biosciences in Africa
- Promote access to affordable, world-class research facilities within Africa
- Harness indigenous knowledge and technology of the African people for sustainable utilization of natural resources and wealth generation.
NEPAD/ABI is being implemented through establishment of regional networks of centres of excellence throughout the continent. The Initiative is feeding into three NEPAD thematic areas, namely agriculture, human development (health) and environment.
What is happening under this programme?
The NEPAD-ABI regional biosciences network consists of a secretariat, hub and several nodes distributed throughout the region.
The four NEPAD-ABI regional networks are:
• Biosciences eastern and central Africa Network (BecANet)
• Southern African Network for Biosciences (SANBio)
• West African Biosciences Network (WABNet)
• North African Biosciences Network (NABNet).
NEPAD is providing a platform on which these biosciences networks are being established. The networks belong to the countries of the regions while NEPAD/ABI provides policy guidelines.
Recently, the African Bio-safety Network of Expertise (ABNE - www.nepadbiosafety.net) was set-up as a continent-wide service network managed by African staff with multidisciplinary expertise in bio-safety systems; including food safety, environmental safety, socio-economic impact, intellectual property and legal issues. ABNE, since its inception, has been providing up-to-date training and science-based information to African regulators of agricultural biotechnology to help countries make informed decisions. ABNE partners with existing organizations/initiatives and is linked to international bio-safety expertise for technical backstopping (Michigan State University). The network is funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation while the Government of Burkina Faso provides the international institution status support. ABNE has been providing up-to-date training and science-based information to African regulators of agricultural biotechnology to help countries make informed decisions on matters pertaining to genetically modified organisms.
What progress has been made so far?
Within SANBio the highlight of the projects is the “Scientific Validation of Traditional Remedies HIV/AIDS”. SF-2000, a herbal remedy used by a herbalist in Zambia for HIV/AIDS, has been formulated into capsules and the pre-clinical studies on anti-HIV-1 subtype C activity have led to the development of a Protocol for scheduled Phase I Clinical Trials in Zambia. Other research projects include mushroom farming and aquaculture technology transfer to local communities, especially women, using affordable local resources.
BecANet Hub is hosting 24 research projects on crops and livestock, among them three flagships and five competitive grant projects. The projects focused on banana, sorghum, livestock and human TB, tef, cassava, sweet potatoes, and tsetse-trypanosomiasis vector host interactions. A milestone of the research on trypanosomiasis is the discovery of a potential drug against sleeping sickness and a patent. WABNet is implementing a flagship project on the “Inventory and Characterisation of West African Sorghum Genetic Resources”. Using Ghana as a model, 245 accessions of sorghum were collected but a milestone for this project was the collection of 45 new accessions.
NABNet is implementing a flagship project on the production of biotic and abiotic stress tolerant (bio-fortified) North African barley varieties. Currently iron bio-fortified and drought tolerant transgenic plants are under green house tests. The network is also implementing other projects, notably genetic risk factors of type II diabetes (T2D), the protection of date palms against major pathogens, and bio-insecticides for biological control. Since inception
With regard to human capacity building, the following has been achieved: (i) NEPAD OST has supported and supervised four MSc and three PhD students (ii) SANBio/Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) Node has sponsored six postgraduate students and the Bioinformatics Node has trained 40 participants (iii) From 2007 to date, 38 graduate students (25 MSc and 13 PhD students), 16 short-term trainees and 13 visiting scientists have used the BecANet Hub facilities. (iv) WABNet has six (four male and female) students registered under its project on inventory and characterisation of West African sorghum genetic resources. (v) NABNet has 12 MSc and 24 PhD students working on different projects implemented in the region.
In terms of infrastructure capacity strengthening, the following has been achieved: (i) SANBio has established a Bioinformatics Core Facility at the University of Mauritius and the IKS Centre at the North West University in South Africa (ii) the upgrading of laboratory facilities at the BecANet Hub (iii) the establishment of a biotechnology laboratory at the University of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso.