Engaging Public Representatives in Biosecurity and Pandemic Preparedness
8-12 November, 2021
Principles for Strengthening Biological Security in Africa
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and other recent large-scale disease outbreaks in Africa, including the Ebola viral outbreaks of West Africa (2014-15) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (2018-20), have underscored that infectious disease outbreaks can have devastating, whole-of-society impacts. While focus must remain on ending the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a no less urgent requirement for the wider international community to come together with partners in Africa to take bold, coordinated action to build sustainable health security capacities, thereby better enabling countries to prevent, detect and respond to future infectious disease threats to humans and animals, whether natural, accidental or deliberate in origin.
United in shared commitment and vision, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and the G7-led Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction (GP) have launched a Signature Initiative to Mitigate Biological Threats in Africa. Guided by the Africa CDC’s Five-Year Strategic Plan for Biosafety and Biosecurity and the GP’s Biosecurity Deliverables, and building on the foundation of the G7’s Beyond Ebola Agenda (2015), the Signature Initiative harnesses the resources, expertise and political will of a community of nations, organisations and civil society partners that share a commitment to collaboration at the health-security interface to build impactful and sustainable biosecurity, biosafety and biological risk management capabilities in and for Africa.
In recognition that new approaches, new partnerships and new investments are needed to mitigate all manner of biological threats and help prevent future pandemics, the following Principles for Strengthening Biosecurity in Africa should assist in guiding future efforts:
1. Promote the development, adoption, full implementation and appropriate resourcing for comprehensive policies, legislation and regulations for biosafety, biosecurity and biological non-proliferation, using the Africa CDC’s proposed Biosafety and Biosecurity Legislative Framework as a guide;
2. Develop and maintain appropriate effective national governance structures that will promote and where necessary enforce responsible conduct in the life sciences concerned with early detection, investigation and management of disease outbreaks, and prosecuting and defending against the misuse of biological agents, equipment, materials, information or expertise;
3. Develop and maintain sustainable biosecurity, biosafety and laboratory capacity in Africa, including through:
i) the establishment of regional specialized training facilities for engineering, maintenance and calibration of laboratory equipment and biological laboratories;
ii) the development and application of innovative new solutions to improve the sustainability of infectious disease diagnostic laboratories, particularly in low-resource settings, and the provision of infrastructure support, training and capacitation of national public health institutes and national reference laboratories to manage capabilities;
iii) resourcing for Africa CDC to maintain a strategic focus on biosafety and biosecurity and appropriate capacity-building within Union Member States, in alignment with the principles and actions outlined in its Five-Year Strategic Plan for Biosafety and Biosecurity; and
iv) accessible regional professional training and certification programs, in response to workforce development and surge capacity needs.
4. Develop, apply and maintain early warning and disease surveillance and detection capabilities (including specialised laboratories) and multi-sectoral workforce skills needed to prevent, detect and respond rapidly to future outbreaks of infectious diseases, whether deliberate, accidental, or natural, and to share information in a timely fashion;
5. Develop, review and apply effective approaches to integrate strong and appropriate biosecurity and biosafety measures into outbreak response and improve the management and, where possible, consolidation and reduction of holdings of potentially hazardous biological material and samples;
6. Promote and strengthen multi-sectoral cooperation in biosecurity and biosafety on a national, regional and international basis, including through and in partnership with Africa CDC, the African Union, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation (FAO), the United Nations Security Council Committee pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004) and the Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention.