Building African Capacity in Access and Benefit Sharing

The commercial use of genetic resources and the sharing of benefits arising from this use have received considerable attention over the past two decades. Not only is there increasing recognition of the interdependencies of nations on the world’s genetic resources, but so too is there greater awareness of the potential benefits that arise from the use of these resources for poverty alleviation, food security, biodiversity conservation, technology transfer, and the improvement of research and scientific capacity. Efforts have been made to increase knowledge and capacity around access and benefit sharing (ABS), but remain constrained by the complexity of ABS which gathers a wide range of scientific, conservation, trade and legal elements onto the same stage.

African countries face particularly acute capacity constraints in implementing ABS at the national and regional level. On the one hand, many have very diverse and unique biological resources and rich repositories of traditional knowledge, which attract high levels of bioprospecting. On the other hand, most African countries have spiralling levels of poverty, massive development needs and limited technical capacity to deal with these problems. Implementing and regulating ABS under such circumstances is clearly a substantial challenge.

Overcoming such limitations requires solutions which are cross-sectoral in nature, wide-ranging in scope and bring together a range of diverse understandings and stakeholders. Our group at the University of Cape Town (at the time established as the Environmental Evaluation Unit), in partnership with the ABS Capacity Building Initiative, directed the first Training Course to Build African Capacity in ABS in Cape Town from 25-29 January 2010. This was followed by week-long courses held in Nairobi in 2011, Gaborone in 2013, and Zanzibar in 2014. Each course is attended by 40 participants from around the African continent, representing governmental departments, non-governmental organisations, as well as members of the research community. Presenters include international experts in different aspects of ABS, and local partners are involved in the formal hosting of the course as well as facilitating an ABS-related field excursion for participants. The next course will be held in Harare from 1 to 5 June 2015. ABS Course 2015 Flyer

Group photo
Group photo 2014 course

Participant comments from the 2014 course

Kudos for the excellent training. I have learnt a lot!!

The program was well put together. The facilitators are just excellent.

This is an excellent course. Should be continued.

Thanks for a well distributed selection of participants from each country. This supports further follow-up and collaboration and pushing forward for policies.

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