World Summit for Sustainable Development, dubbed Johannesburg 2002 Summit, due late this month through to September, will be an important opportunity for African biotechnology stakeholders.
Decisions made at the summit will result in new initiatives that could create climate for further development of biotechnology.
Such decisions will include:
Better access for developing countries to global markets;
Increased investment for developing economies;
Resource commitment such as support for the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad);
Technology development and transfer from developed to developing countries to facilitate the strengthening of the local industry to achieve the goals of poverty alleviation.
Emphasis needs be placed national and global strategies to ensure;
Appropriate caution and judgement in the developing and application of biotechnology.
The implementation of suitable risk assessment systems to minimise the potential risk in human and animal health and environment resulting from the commercial use of biotechnology and resulting products.
The establishment of appropriate and enforceable regulatory systems at national and global levels to ensure safe international trade and the use of biotechnology products.
This includes the ratification and implementation of bio-safety protocol and an increased level of public awareness and acceptance of the process and the products of biotechnology.
The summit is also likely to discuss genetically modified foods/crops, which many African countries are now adopting.
Experts confirm that these products provide higher nutritional value better taste, longer conservation and above all they are drought resistant.
In 1992 during the Rio Earth Summit, important issues were raised and conclusions reached on sustainable development.
Two major conventions were reached and signed, including the Convention on Climate Change and Bio-diversity. Furthermore, participating governments and other interested parties accepted the blueprint for achieving sustainable development.
There was a consensus that northern hemisphere countries would allocate resources and technology to the poor southern hemisphere countries to enable them build their capacity in more effective way. But little has been achieved a decade later.
The year 2000 General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the awaited resolution on the holding of ten-year review of the Rio Summit and called it WSSD.
This month's meeting will, therefore, set the stage for the development of fresh policies which will be implemented in the years to come. The 2000 summit was to ensure a balance between economic, social development and environmental protection as components of sustainable development.
The choice of an African city as the venue for the WSSD is significant in the sense that the continent is in need of sustainable development. It also signifies the role South Africa has played in trying to establish partnership between Africa and the rest of the world.