Africa must come on board the genomics bandwagon
- Temidayo O Ogundiran
© ESRC Genomics Network 2005
Published: 15 December 2005
With the completion and the success of the unraveling of the human and some nonhuman genetic codes comes the optimism that science, once again, is at the threshold of transforming human existence in an unprecedented way. The sequencing of the human genome with the science and technology by which it occurs is seen as a potential gateway to man's final conquest of most of the health and health related disorders that have for long plagued the human race.
While some developing nations like Cuba, Mexico and India have taken the initiative to be major players in the genomics arena by exploring its potentials towards enhancing improved quality of life for their citizens, the majority of others, especially in Africa, still occupy the spectators' seat. If this apparent lukewarm attitude continues, it implies that the present dependence on the developed nations as remote beneficiaries of gains of scientific breakthroughs will persist. It also means that the expectation that genomics should, among other benefits, re-dress the inequalities of access to health care between the rich and poor nations may be a mirage for a long time to come.
The expected benefits from the human genome project and genomics technologies are fascinating and hold the ace for improving the standards of living of the African people. However, these expectations are futuristic, time-dependent and capital intensive. They require commitments of national governments to policy re-orientation about research and development, strategic planning, resource mobilization, priority setting; and establishing, promoting and sustaining enabling environments for scientific and technological breakthrough. No doubt, there is dire need for assistance from the developed and the frontline developing nations in this regard. However, great initiatives and deep commitments to making significant scholarly contributions to the advancement of biotechnology and its potentials in the near future must come from within.