Beyond GM for crops, there is great interest and potential in Africa for the science of genetics to contribute to intellectual, moral and socioeconomic development. This broader view of the science of genetics includes the “new” genetic technologies for plant improvement (non-GM techniques such as cisgenesis, zinc finger nuclease, RNA dependent DNA methylation); animal breeding, genetics and biodiversity research (including insect research); and a cross-section of issues in human genetics.

Scientific advances over the last decade have generated more opportunities for benefit, but also further challenges in public acceptance of the technology. In part, this is because the science remains poorly communicated and understood by the public, and much excellent local research remains effectively invisible, even to a local audience.

We believe there is a considerable opportunity for JTF, and like-minded funders, to strategically invest in uncovering Africa’s "hidden" genetic research and to support media engagement and outreach activities aimed at improving public understanding of the full scope of genetic research in Africa, encompassing human, plant and animal genetics. Proposed future activities would include a series of popular essay-based publications, media engagement, establishing a web presence for Institutes, and forging a pan-African network of institutes and researchers.

This planning grant will inform future strategic investment in this area (for JTF and others) through two main activities. We will map African genetic science research institutes, their activities and current communications outreach capability. And we will hold three strategic planning workshops bringing together key African and international experts to discuss the potential for human, animal and plant genetics, respectively, to benefit African development and empowerment. We will also use these activities to formulate a strategy for engagement to co-fund of future work.