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Multiple understandings of biotechnology policy convergence in southern Africa: implications for theory and practice

Mugwagwa, J

January 2008

Policy convergence, defined as the growth in similarity of policies over time, constitutes a central concept in comparative public policy, yet a great deal of ambiguity and contention surrounds it. The basic objective of this paper is to discuss the conceptual and practical meanings of policy convergence in southern Africa within the context of cross-national biotechnology regulation. The paper will also explore, from practical and theoretical viewpoints, the relationships between policy convergence and related theoretical concepts. This analysis is being made as part of the broader investigation into an understanding of the ways in which three supranational organizations, the African Union (AU), the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) may be influencing the process towards converged systems for managing biotechnology within the SADC region. This paper argues that an illumination of the different framings of convergence is crucial, not for the sake of eliminating differences between these understandings, but in order to highlight these divergent realities faced by the policy making process.

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