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Developing an Innovation-led BioEconomy Strategy for Eastern Africa (BISEA)

Project Duration: 2018-2021
Grantor: BioInnovate Africa Programme
Principal Investigator: Dr Gertrude Ngabirano, The East African Science and Technology Commission (EASTECO)
Co-Principal Investigator and Project Director, ATPS: Dr Nicholas Ozor
Grant Amount: USD 500,000

Project Description/Background

The development of future bio economies in the eastern African region is challenging and governments/policymakers are faced with many questions, such as;

  • How can countries in eastern Africa, with all their constraint, make the best out from their huge bio-resources, using new technologies and new market conditions?
  • What type of investments in, science and technology, bioscience innovation and natural resource management and production systems can best connect smallholders to markets, value chains and agro-processing opportunities?
  • How could the energy, health and manufacturing sector make use of new technologies opportunities for biobased productions in an eastern African context, and how could such technologies support and add value to traditional medicine/knowledge?
  • How to get there? How should these innovation and production systems be developed and supported? What specific investments are needed and how can capacity be built? What strategies and what policies need to be put in place? What type of innovation, entrepreneurship and financing models are needed?

The Developing an Innovation-Led Bioeconomy Strategy for eastern Africa (BiSEA) is built on the premise that it is now high time for countries in the region to apply more systematically bio-based knowledge for economic transformations that will respond to local development needs. This will require long term planning and prioritization, investment in human capacity, S&T infrastructures, entrepreneurial capacity, innovation structures and enabling policy environment. This, in turn, requires strong leadership, government commitments, Overseas Development Assistance (ODA), public-private partnerships and most importantly long term strategies.

Governments around the world are now developing bioeconomic strategies on how to take full advantage of the bioscience revolution and bioeconomic development. Developing regional and national bioeconomic strategies is, therefore, an important step in the process of moving towards modern bioeconomies in the region. In Africa, only South Africa has a well-developed national bioeconomic strategy. The proposed collaborative project responds to the lack of a common bio-economy strategy in eastern Africa with a view to developing a regional bioeconomic strategy that in a holistic way, supports strategic interventions in health, agriculture, industry, environment, energy sectors in the region. The proposed collaborative project will also generate bioeconomic strategies and policies at national levels.

The vision is for Eastern African Community’s bio-economy to be a significant contributor to the region’s economy in line with the African Union’s Agenda 2063 for knowledge-based, innovation-led African economies. Furthermore, EASTECO’s vision of contributing to a prosperous, competitive, secure and united East Africa through collaboration in science, technology and innovation (STI) will very much be complemented by the proposed project. The vision aims to achieve growth in STI and development of novel industries generating biobased services, products and innovations that will translate into increased and more diverse value added agricultural production, new biobased value chains, new start-up bio-based companies and an innovation-driven growth of existing biobased companies. On a macro-economic and developmental level, thriving eastern African bio economies has the potential to make the countries more competitive internationally (especially in the agro-industrial sector); create more sustainable jobs; enhance food security; and create a greener economy as the countries shift towards biobased low-carbon economies. This will lay a foundation for strong knowledge-based bioeconomy in the region.

The regional strategy will build upon the strong foundation laid by an East African regional Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) policy aimed at creating an enabling environment for increased STI investments supporting sustainable regional development and socio- economic transformation. The proposed regional Bioeconomy strategy will guide the development of national bioeconomy strategies of the EAC partner states and Ethiopia. These strategies will provide a framework to guide biosciences R&D and innovation investments, as well as decision-making pathways as eastern African countries adapted to the realities of the global transition to a low carbon economy. These strategies should also create an enabling environment for a wide range of role players including government departments, industries, venture capitalists, the academia, private sector entrepreneurs, practitioners in the agricultural, health, energy and in the biobased sector, and the broader public. The strategies will also identify areas where public policy can lower barriers, create incentives, encourage innovation and improve cooperation between and among stakeholders. It will form the basis for pursuing bioeconomy policies at national and regional levels.

Key Objectives and Activities

The overall development objective of the proposed project is to develop, in close consultation with Science and Technology Councils and Commission and relevant ministries and stakeholders in all six BioInnovate countries, a regional innovation-driven bioeconomy strategy shared by the countries in the eastern Africa region. A strategy which can inspire and catalyse the development of national bioeconomy strategies and subsequent policy development and interventions that are able to create new jobs and a sustainable biobased and inclusive economic growth in the region.

The specific objectives are to:

  1. Review the current bioeconomy landscapes of the participating nations, identifying key actors, institutions, networks and technological factors, their roles and relationships as well as assess policy options, gaps, challenges, and the competitive advantage of these economies to spur bio-based economic growth in the region;
  2. Building from the background policy and technological assessment, conduct empirical studies of strategic issues, components and factors enabling biobased economic growth in eastern Africa;
  • Building from the theoretical and empirical assessments, solicit inputs from stakeholders to ascertain the strategic goals, approaches and actions for the region that will be integrated into a draft regional bioeconomy strategy to catalyze and guide the development of national bioeconomy strategies and subsequent policies and actions;
  1. Develop two (2) high quality targeted policy briefs based on the status report on bioeconomy in the region and policy that will support and inform the national and regional dialogues on the development of national and regional bioeconomy strategies, policies and actions;
  2. With the existing framework of BioInnovate Africa, organize regional and multidisciplinary bioeconomy forum and platform for generating knowledge and insights that could assist countries to formulate and implement strategies and policies in support of bioeconomy development; and
  3. Seek approval and adoption of the regional bioeconomy strategy by the organs of the East African Community;

Expected Outcomes

They key outcomes of this project are:

  1. Increased knowledge and awareness about the state of bio-economy issues, landscape and development in eastern Africa.
  2. EAC Governance Bodies approve an innovation-driven bioeconomy strategy for Eastern Africa

Project Outputs

  1. Project Inception Report
  2. Bioeconomy related Policies and Regulatory Frameworks in Eastern Africa- Report
  3. Proceedings of the Bioeconomy Futures Workshop
  4. Bioeconomy Strategy for Eastern Africa-Foresight Study Report
  5. The Futures of Bioeconomy in Eastern Africa- Journal Paper
  6. Modelling Bioeconomy futures for Eastern Africa-Journal Paper

Eastern Africa Bioeconomy Strategy Documents

  1. Final Summary EAC Bioeconomy Strategy
  2. Final Draft EAC Regional Bioeconomy Strategy
  3. Final Draft Implementation Plan for EAC Regional Bioeconomy Strategy
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