Revolutionizing Access to Genetic Resources in Cameroon
How the ABS system evolved from manual to digital access application format
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Value add for readers
- Information on Cameroon’s digital transition in accessing genetic resources, which will give you know-how for implementing innovative solutions in international development cooperation
- Discover the potential of the digital ABS system to revolutionize nature-based business, fostering equitable partnerships and sustainable growth
Manoka Reserve, Cameroon ⎮ © Photo by Edouard TAMBA on Unsplash
The world of international development cooperation is constantly evolving, and one area that has recently undergone a substantial transformation is the access and benefit-sharing (ABS) system in Cameroon.
With the advent of digital technology, the traditional manual application process has been replaced with a cutting-edge online tool. This innovative development, spearheaded by the BioInnovation Africa Project in collaboration with GIZ, is set to revolutionize the way businesses interact with providers of genetic resources, particularly indigenous people and local communities.
In this article, I’ll delve into the background, system contents development, and lessons learned from this remarkable transition.
A New Dimension of Nature-Based Business
The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization paved the way for a new era of nature-based business. However, the physical distance between the users and providers of genetic resources posed some challenges.
To bridge this gap, a digital online tool was developed as part of the BioInnovation Africa Project. This tool allows users, often industries, to interact directly with indigenous people and local communities and reduce the negative impact of long distances in conducting business.
The project, commissioned by BMZ and implemented by GIZ in multiple African countries, including Cameroon, aims to enhance real-time communication between regulatory authorities and business partners within and outside the country.
The Birth of the Digital ABS System
In Cameroon, numerous applications to access domestic genetic resources originate from national universities and research centers, many of which collaborate with international laboratories.
The development of the online tool was guided by sustainability concerns and aligned with the technological capabilities of the partner ministry.
The tool’s conceptual framework is rooted in a modular dispatch system, facilitating seamless data and information exchange between applicants and the access and benefit-sharing system competent national authority responsible for regulating access.
To ensure its success, a meticulous process was followed, including the involvement of IT experts, selection of IT firms, development of a schematic representation, and extensive training of personnel.
Lessons Learned and Future Prospects
Throughout the development process, several valuable lessons were learned.
- Firstly, the inherent complexity of IT systems necessitates careful planning and simplicity in design. Despite efforts to address system security and data protection, challenges persist.
- The expansion of functionalities brings additional complexities, such as hosting, maintenance, and upgrades.
- Training played a crucial role, fostering mutual learning between IT developers and access and benefit-sharing system regulators to streamline processes effectively.
- Sustaining the system beyond the project’s funding is a key concern, prompting the exploration of resource allocation from access and benefit-sharing system processes for maintenance.
- Leveraging local IT capacities and fostering south-south IT private sector cooperation proved beneficial in addressing institutional challenges and ensuring long-term viability. Finally, the development timeline highlighted the importance of allocating sufficient time for the process to reach fruition.
State of Play
Cameroon’s transition from a manual to a digital access and benefit-sharing system marks an important milestone in international development cooperation. The new online tool has the potential to revolutionize the way genetic resources are accessed and benefits are shared, bringing users closer to indigenous people and local communities.
While challenges and lessons were encountered along the way, the successful deployment of this system demonstrates the power of innovation and collaboration. As the project moves forward, the focus will be on sustaining the tool, strengthening institutional capacities, and maximizing the benefits of this transformative digital solution.
Okenye Mambo, Coordinator BioInnovation Africa Project Cameroon, email@example.com