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Invisible hands propping up invisible barriers: tracing the motivations for and against convergence of biosafety systems in the Southern Africa Development Community

Background

This paper is based on a study which investigated both existing and new regulatory responses to food emergencies and bigger challenges presented by modern biotechnology. In particular, this paper looks at the challenge of cross-national cooperation in regulation of the technology. One response to this challenge which has dominated policy agendas in the region for a long time, with more prominence after the food emergency, is that of the harmonisation of national regulatory systems. Harmonisation is touted by its promoters as one way in which countries can leverage weaker national and sub-national regulatory capacities, and develop synergies that will place them in a strong position to deal with the dynamic challenges presented by the technology. Admittedly, and as will be detailed throughout this paper, a number of organizations and programmes have entered the policy arena in southern Africa, to champion the harmonisation agenda directly, or to tackle other levels within the policy/regulation development spectrum. This study behind this paper focused on the roles of three supranational organizations (SNOs), the African Union (AU), the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The desire for cross-national cooperation in biotechnology management was investigated from the broader perspective of policy convergence, with harmonisation being but one of the mechanisms towards the collective responses to the collective challenge.