African scientists urged to publish more research articles on new technologies Mrs Anna Tinarwo

Sifelani Tsiko
Innovations Editor

African scientists must join the global critical mass of researchers by writing more articles on gene editing science and other emerging biotechnology subjects to inform policies that will contribute to the economic and social development of the continent, a senior official in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) says.

Anna Tinarwo, a chief director in the Office of the President and Cabinet told participants at a workshop to validate a Genome Editing (Ged) Science Module course for local universities and research institutions that African scientists were best placed to identify the most relevant and pressing local problems.

“To date, more than 5 000 articles have been written on genome editing. Scientists from Africa should contribute to the body of knowledge on GeD. The innovations will lead to improvements in our agriculture and health sectors,” she said.

“Your contributions in well-referred journals and other publications should lead to improvements in food and nutrition security. The validation of this module supported by the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), the Scientific and Industrial Research and Development Centre (SIRDC) and the National Biotechnology Authority will enhance the sharing of knowledge and expertise.”

Tinarwo said it was important to build the capacity of African scientists to help develop African-led models that provide innovative solutions to the continent’s pressing problems.

African scientists often have limited access to scientific publications and research support services and experts note that the legacies of colonialism – such as funding and publishing structures – continue to favour Northern-based researchers

The African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), the Scientific and Industrial Research and Development Centre (SIRDC), and National Biotechnology Authority organised the workshop to help strengthen the capacity of local universities and colleges to adopt gene editing as a tool to optimise the country’s agricultural sector.

The country’s scientific experts were meeting this week to review gene editing modules before they are published and adopted in institutions of higher learning.

The workshop also sought to introduce university lecturers to four carefully crafted modules that have been developed by experts at AUDA-NEPAD.

The modules were designed to provide a comprehensive and up-to-date understanding of genome editing, covering both the scientific principles and the ethical considerations surrounding this cutting-edge technology.

Speaking at the same event, Dr Bongani Nkhabindze, AUDA-NEPAD programmes officer hailed Zimbabwean scientists for working hard to come up with a robust module for use in local universities and institutions.

“The good working spirit shown in this meeting is highly commendable. We had very robust group work and suggestions. This gives justice to the actual module which will not be used in Zimbabwe alone, but throughout Africa,” he said.

“The work should help consolidate the module to be published and used. I really commend the spirit and effort made on this.”

Experts say African-led efforts increase opportunities for senior scientists to act as role models and mentors and also increase the visibility of African scientists and facilitate the development of appropriate solutions to African problems.

Zimbabwe is among other selected countries such as Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Mozambique, Kenya and Malawi that were chosen to pilot the application of genome editing research toward product development.

Gene-editing science and technology is in the early stages in Zimbabwe and most African countries and the potential of this technology is still to be harnessed.

Gene editing technology allows scientists to edit any gene they target, enabling them to find and change or replace genetic defects.

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