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Kenya says Africa needs more experts to fight life-threatening infections

15 August 2016, 19:32

Nairobi (Xinhua) -- Africa requires additional trained experts to help with the fight against life-threatening infections, a senior Kenyan official said on Monday.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett said that with highly trained personnel, the continent will be capable of fighting the emergence of infections such as Ebola, typhoid, drug-resistant tuberculosis among others.

"A lot still needs to be done toward building the necessary human resources capacities to effectively and safely handle such pathogens," Bett said during the first African Biosafety Leadership Summit in Nairobi.

He observed that it is unfortunate that Africa is regularly plagued by a number of life-threatening infections that has been wiped out in other continents.

Bett said experts ought to discuss and find a solution on threat reduction and how countries in Africa can meet the requirements of other international agreements on major scientific commitments.

He said Kenya is ready to support biosafety in the Eastern Africa region by providing an enabling environment for the growth of the biotechnology innovations and industry.

"We need to reduce trade barriers, trans-boundary movements and strengthen expertise across the region to benefit farmers," Bett added.

The summit was formed by the African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE), a pan-African research network, to move forward in adopting biotechnology while ensuring human and animal health, plants and adequate protection of the environment.

Dr. Argent Chuula, CEO of Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA), told African governments to apply the existing regional policy on biotechnology and apply modern biotechnology in improving living standards of farmers.

"We are planning to use the summit to advance regionally harmonized regulations and product testing practices and eventually establish a regional-level risk assessment mechanism," Chuula said.

He announced that ACTESA and Common Market for East and Southern (COMESA) plan to help member states in building an institutional framework to regulate the application of the GM Biotechnology program.

Jenesio Kinyamario, Chairman of Kenya's National Biosafety Authority, said the summit will help identify the regulatory needs of African countries with the purpose of ensuring adoption of international agreements and implement programs in biosafety in the continent.

Kinyamario said that the summit will lead to collaborations, sharing and enhancing safe and responsible work with biotechnology in Africa.

Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia, Ghana, Senegal and Burkina Faso are among the 18 countries that have registered with the summit.

It is expected that the summit will help reduce hurdles that currently exist in sharing biosafety data and information for decision making between the countries.

- Xinhua


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