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As the year draws to an end, the AfriCenter family wishes to express our sincere gratitude for your continued support and dedication in our work towards unlocking Africa's potential for achieving agricultural transformation, and fostering a healthier planet for future generations.

At ISAAA AfriCenter, we recognize that sustainable and equitable food and feed systems have the potential to achieve critical progress on SDGs and Agenda 2063. However, we remain alive to the fragilities of these systems that are worsened by several exogenous factors such as climate change, increased pest and disease pressure, and limited access to modern agricultural technologies. In this regard, we believe that our work would be incomplete without delivering the benefits of modern tools to farmers who form the cornerstone of Africa's food and feed systems. Our efforts over the years have contributed towards increased adoption of genetically modified crops in Africa, and to date, countries planting such crops have more than doubled, from three in 2013, to eight in 2023. In Kenya, our contribution facilitated progress towards planting of GM cassava National Performance Trials.

In our continued quest to ensure the region benefits from emerging tools in agriculture, ISAAA AfriCenter and her partners under the Striga Smart Sorghum for Africa (SSSfA) project are setting the pace towards developing a self-reliant model for commercialization of demand-driven sorghum varieties resistant to Striga, using genome editing. The project is recording valuable lessons that will pave way for similar initiatives in the region. Building on lessons from over two decades of championing for modern biotechnology in Africa, the SSSfA project team has established a robust agri-innovation technology platform through AfriBIOHubs. The Hubs will empower Africa's rich pool of early career scientists and bio-innovators with requisite skills to realize the socio-economic and commercial potential of their innovations. Three of our inaugural enzyme manufacturing masterclass beneficiaries participated in a 3-month virtual bio-entrepreneurship training and mentorship program under the Iowa State University's Startup Factory. The trio projected African scientists' desire for homegrown solutions through passionate pitches.

ABBC2023 delegates were treated to a sorghum festival where the crop's use and importance was highlighted over a relaxed cocktail session.

AfriCenter is alive to the fact that regulations and communication efforts have not kept pace with the rapid advancements in genome editing. We believe in the need to educate the public for informed policy and choice, and walk together with key stakeholders along the product development lifecycle. In light of this, our signature Symposium, the Africa Biennial Biosciences Communication (ABBC2023) provided a platform for over 180 delegates from 23 countries to deliberate on whether communication is matching up with the evolution of genetic improvement tools in agriculture. Some best-bet communication practices were proposed, and African states and development partners urged to put more investment in science communication. Highlights from this successful event can be found in our report. We plan to take ABBC2025 to West Africa, and call on all like-minded partners to register interest towards elevating the Symposium's impact as we continue fostering a community dedicated to championing for bio-innovations in Africa.

Regulators from Africa and Latin America engaged with researchers during a side-event at ABBC2023 to share insights on regulation of genome editing technologies

Resilient food systems are hinged on knowledgeable policy and decision makers who are constantly armed with factual and timely information to facilitate evidence-based decision-making during evaluation of trade-offs. At ISAAA AfriCenter, we have extensively engaged this key stakeholder group on various aspects of agri-food/feed systems and One Health. Our continuous engagement with policy makers, contributed to passage of the biosafety law in Rwanda; dismissal of a court case challenging importation of GM crops in Kenya; multi-sectoral efforts towards development of One Health governance structures across 11 African countries; as well as development of a draft National Research and Development Policy in Kenya.

Hon. Mithika Linturi, Cabinet Secretary of Agriculture and Livestock Development being updated on use of crop protection innovations at the ABBC2023 Marketplace

In our efforts to advance Africa's agri-bioinnovations tipping point, we have tested several strategies and garnered valuable lessons and useful tips for unlocking complex systems. Our demonstrated success in using systems thinking and stakeholder net-mapping to unpack complex multistakeholder sectors has enabled us to increase collaboration of One Health actors in eastern and southern Africa. ISAAA AfriCenter has a leading mandate in strengthening capacities for African researchers, early career professionals, grassroot communities and media practitioners to effectively communicate emerging bioinnovations as key drivers to socio-economic development. In our capacity building program, we held five critical skills training workshops across the region. Majority of participants have reported increased confidence in communicating with non-technical audiences. The media remain an integral part of our core mandate. We conducted close to 20 media events in Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia and Zimbabwe, targeting over 250 journalists via science-media cafes, our pioneer seeing-is-believing study tours and the annual OFAB media awards. From our efforts, over 50 stories with close to 80 million media impressions were recorded, including increased coverage of One Health in eastern and southern Africa.

The year 2023 was characterized with a lot of adaptation to the evolving biosciences landscape, aggravated by politicization of science, increased scepticism on emerging tools in agriculture and a rising tide in disinformation, which was declared a global catastrophe by the World Economic Forum. ISAAA AfriCenter navigated these tides of change by launching the Africa Science Dialogue, an inclusive and interactive platform that provides factual and verifiable information on technologies in agriculture, health, and the environment. This African-led platform is expected to nuture Africa's Bioeconomy for growth and prosperity. As the African proverb says, "knowledge is like a baobab tree, no one individual's arms can reach around it." Therefore, we call on all like-minded partners to join hands in fighting disinformation by signing up to the Africa Science Dialogue community.

Thank you for being part of our amazing journey. On behalf of the AfriCenter family, I wish you and your loved ones a refreshing festive season and a prosperous 2024. We cannot wait to see what the new year brings!

Kindest regards,
Margaret Karembu, PhD, MBS
Director, ISAAA AfriCenter / Chair, Africa Science Dialogue

Our office will remain closed from 22nd December 2023 to 10th January 2024

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