By Seun Adams
The Director General/CEO of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha, has underscored the imperative of agricultural biotechnology as the viable and sustainable solution to global food insecurity in an era of increasing population growth.
Demographic experts, he said predict that the global population will hit 9.7 billion in 2050.
Nigeria is said to be experiencing one of the highest demographic growths in Africa with it’s current population hovering around 216 million.
He acknowledged therefore that market research analysis showed that the expected growth in the biotechnology sector would increase from $173 billion to $1000 billion in 2021.
To safely and adequately address food insecurity, the DG in a clarion call urged governments across the 3 tiers, Organised Private Sector (OPS) and stakeholders in the agricultural food value chain to invest in science engineering and biotechnology for sustained and rapid development of the country’s economy.
The DG, made the disclosure while speaking at the opening ceremony of the 2023 STI Expo with theme: “Actualizing Effective Diversification of Nigerian Economy through Science, Technology and Innovation in Abuja.
He added that without deliberate and adequate investment in science, engineering and biotechnology, Nigeria would be receding back to the dark ages.
While advocating for more investment in knowledge-based economy, he explained that there is an urgent need to provide infrastructural facilities in various science and research laboratories across the country for optimal performance.
He said: “Biotechnology is the tool for economic development. It makes use of biological systems, organisms, technology and products that help preserve life and health of our plants.
“Biotechnology plays a key role in protecting our planet resources and enhance people’s lives.
“It has four major areas which we concentrate on in NABDA. They include healthcare, crop production and agriculture, industrial technology and environmental usage.”
He urged investors to explore the huge untapped market in the sector, lamenting that Africa is yet to explore the biotechnology market, adding that the companies that are investing in industrial biotechnology, agricultural biotechnology are making huge profits across the world, adding that the top 25 biotechnology companies that are making huge investments across the world, that none of them comes from Africa.
On NABDA’s activities, he said as part of the efforts of the agency to diversify the economy, he stated that it is collaborating with other institutions to commercialise cowpea crop, stating that Nigeria currently produces 47% of the cowpea and also the highest consumer in Africa.
He said the agency is at its conclusive stage of releasing its TELA Maize, which according to him, is pest resistant, drought tolerant and of high yield after it has undergone field trials and other processes and protocols.