Desta Mebratu has more than 30 years of experience working for industries, government agencies, universities and international organizations. A chemical engineer by background, he has a PhD of engineering in Industrial Environmental Economics from Lund University, Sweden and an MBA in International Business from the American University of London. He worked for different United Nations Agencies including the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) where he worked for more than thirteen years. He served, among others, as Head of Business and Industry Unit and Deputy Regional Director for Africa of UN Environment. He has published more than 40 articles in peer-reviewed journals and Handbooks, including co-Editing a Handbook on Sustainable Development Policy and Administration published by Taylors and Francis in 2008. He is currently an Extraordinary Associate Professor at Centre for Complex Systems in Transition, Stellenbosch University and CEO of the African Transformative Leapfrogging Advisory Services (ATLAS). He is also Fellow of the African Academy of Sciences (AAS), Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS) in South Africa and Pufendorf Institute for Advanced Studies in Sweden.
Alobo has over 15 years’ experience managing research grants both from the recipient’s and funder’s side. His last posting was as a key interface between the African research centres and GSK’s Africa NCD Open Lab. He has worked for GSK, Hoffman La Roche and Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative. He studied medicine at the University of Nairobi (Kenya) and later Public Health at the University of Birmingham (UK). He has been awarded the Archbishop Desmond Tutu African Leadership fellowship in 2014, the EU Contact Point Network for Young African Scientists Fellowship in 2007 and the British Chevening Scholarship in 2005.
The prosperity of our continent’s present and future generations hinges on our rich natural resources and biological diversity. Biotechnological innovations in priority areas for Africa including; food security, nutrition, healthcare and environmental sustainability, will play a key role in the transformation of African economies and in protecting our natural resources. A critical gap is the absence of a conducive environment to develop innovations in a way that will address priority areas of Africa’s globalizing economy.A recommendation of the 2007 New Partnership for Africa’s Development Report on how to promote innovations in Africa is the need for “Regional Innovation Communities” and “Local Innovation Areas” (Juma C & Serageldin I, 2007). These would include clusters of expertise, sharing knowledge, creative ideas, personnel, and working on problems and projects collaboratively. The innovation areas or marketplaces could be concentrated regionally where expertise exists. For example, health biotechnology, is concentrated in southern Africa. North Africa has expertise in bio-pharmaceuticals, eastern Africa in animal biotechnology, west Africa in crop biotechnology and forest biotechnology in central Africa. The panellists will discuss how best to harness Africa’s capacity in innovation and creating conducive innovation market spaces, with a regional focus to improve agricultural productivity, public health, industrial development, economic competitiveness, and environmental sustainability and biodiversity conservation in Africa.