The rosette of a Lobelia deckenii found on Mount Kilimanjaro

The rosette of a Lobelia deckenii found on Mount Kilimanjaro. Photo: Ben Cranke / GettyImages .

On 21–22 October, 2020, the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) through BioInnovate Africa Programme and together with the East African Science and Technology Commission (EASTECO) and SEI Africa are holding the first Eastern Africa Bioeconomy Conference.

Convened under theme “bioeconomy growth prospects for Eastern Africa”, the event will showcase pilots of commercial enterprises supported through icipe/BioInnovate Africa and feature bio-based investment opportunities in the region. It will also include discussions of the East Africa Regional Bioeconomy Strategy – a landmark policy proposal designed to transform the economies of the region and deliver on many of the Sustainable Development Goals through effective and sustainable use of biological resources.

“The strategy will increase opportunities for adding value to primary produce and for investing in novel bio-based industrial and consumer goods, increasing economic diversification and, thus, catalysing economic development and creating jobs. If properly implemented, the strategy would increase the region’s capacity to fully participate in and benefit from the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, which was signed on the 21 March 2018, in Kigali, Rwanda,” said Julius Ecuru, Head of BioInnovate Africa Programme.

Ivar Virgin, Senior Expert at SEI, added, “I believe that East Africa Regional Bioeconomy Strategy will establish the foundation for collaborative bioeconomic capacity building and drive green growth in the region.”

Eastern Africa is incredibly rich in natural resources. But, currently, the region is predominantly producing and trading in raw materials, while bioprocessing and creation of value-added products remains limited. Some 40 million tons of bio-waste is generated from these processes annually, but isn’t utilized and instead often causes environmental pollution. So, adding value to bio-resources presents a pivotal opportunity for the region and can boost sustainable industrialization and business development with a positive social and environmental impact.

The development of a modern bioeconomy in Eastern Africa can help deliver on critical food security, health, and environmental goals by improving farm profitability, boosting production of nutritious foods and bio-based drugs and vaccines, as well as reducing climate-changing pollution.

In order to realize the promise of a modern bioeconomy, countries in the region need to develop an enabling environment, where strategic capacity building, partnerships, business incubation, financing mechanisms and supportive policies are key.

The East Africa Regional Bioeconomy Strategy will help the countries to pool resources, learn from each other, develop their bioeconomic capacity together and jointly increasing the attractiveness of the region for investments. Regional collaboration will also facilitate economies of scale and trade, as well as harmonization of regulation and standards for bio-based products.