UNESCO made the recommendation at an international seminar on biotechnology held to formally commission the International Centre for Biotechnology, UNESCO Category 2 at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Maciej J. Nalecz, a professor, and the global organisation’s director of basic sciences, stated in a key note address that biotechnology is most suited to enable Africa tackle its challenges. Nalecz stated, “Biotechnology is an obvious choice for Africa to start investing in R&D. It offers not only exciting research possibilities, but almost endless applications that are crucial to development e.g. in Agriculture, Medicine and/or Energy sectors.”
The professor said that Biotechnology would enable Africa leapfrog competition from other continents because “it already has its hubs, so it does not need to be started from zero.” The Director of UNESCO Science, Education and Training programmes said that the essence of Biotechnology training and research is “finding a bridge between science and the public.”
Nalecz said that advocacy for and popularisation of Biotechnology is needed in Africa in order to tackle agricultural-related issues such as food and nutrition safety, drought-resistant plant and tissue culture; health-related issues like tropical diseases, vaccines, pharmaceuticals; biomedical engineering such as artificial organs; energy issues biomass; and, material sciences, nanotechnology and many others.
For UNESCO, biotechnology is imperative in Africa. Nalecz justified the call thus: “The issues of food and nutrition security and tropical diseases remain prime development challenges facing the African continent and there are tremendous opportunities to harness the power of modern biotechnology in addressing these challenges.”
He stressed that in order to stimulate biotechnology development in the continent, the pertinent authorities must create physical infrastructure in critical platform technologies and use it to support education and training, including inter-disciplinary education to create human resource required at the interface of engineering, chemistry, physics and medical sciences; produce human resources directly suited to industry needs to drive research and development, manufacturing, services, enterprise in the biotech industry, and be consistent with the national, regional and global requirements.