The Secretary General of the East African Community (EAC) Dr. Peter Mutuku Mathuki has said that the recently approved regional bioeconomy strategy by the EAC Council of Minister will be a key factor to promoting food security and sustainable agriculture in the region.
Dr. Mathuki said that the bioeconomy strategy – the first of its kind in Africa and the second in the world after that of the European Union – will increase opportunities for the EAC Partner States to deepen their cooperation in developing a sustainable and resilient bioeconomy, added Dr.Mathuki.
“Through the strategy, EAC Partner States will scale-up their bio-innovations, share scientific knowledge, and harmonise policies, standards and regulations for bio-manufacturing and regional trade,” said Dr. Mathuki.
The Secretary General said the East Africa region has a comparative advantage in for bio-manufacturing, and bio-based products given its rich diversity in biological resources and a large proportion of arable land.
“At the moment, agriculture contributes more than 30% of the region’s GDP, making it the backbone of the economy for the Partner States,” said Dr. Mathuki.
“The strategy is aligned with expressed commitments to environmental sustainability, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and changing of unsustainable practices by countries in the region,” added the Secretary General.
Dr Mathuki said that the strategy provides a compelling framework for putting in place agreed goals and interventions which countries in East Africa can use to achieve the continental aspiration of integrating under Agenda 2063 and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development into inter-sectoral national development plans, and the regional aspiration contained in EAC Vision 2050 through which Partner States aspire to become middle-income countries by the year 2050.
The Secretary General said that neighbouring countries that are EAC members can benefit from the strategy given their similar aspirations and bioresource base.
“It is a desire of the EAC that other regional economic communities can use this strategy as an example or benchmark to develop their own regional bioeconomy strategies,” said Dr. Mathuki.
The strategy builds on existing national and regional science, technology, and innovation (STI) policies and related instruments that aim to create an enabling environment for increased STI investments to support sustainable development and socio-economic transformation.
“The strategy makes it possible for universities, research institutions, and other innovation centres in the region to use their scientific knowledge to add social and economic value to biological resources and adopt modern technologies and know-how for local bioinnovations,” said Dr. Sylvance Okoth, the Executive Secretary of the East African Science and Technology Commission (EASTECO).
The development of the East African Regional Bioeconomy Strategy began in 2019 through a national and regional consultative process spearheaded by EASTECO and the national councils and commissions of science and technology, and the support of BioInnovate Africa, a regional science and innovation-driven initiative for Eastern Africa based at International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) in Nairobi, Kenya.
“With the strategy in place, great cooperation and partnerships within the region and internationally are expected to be strengthen for its better implementation”, says Julius Ecuru, Manager, BioInnovate Africa, icipe.
Opportunities for cooperation exist in bioeconomy capacity building, product and business development, standards, regulation and market creation, among other things.