MSU researcher named to African panel on emerging technologies

Michigan State University AgBioResearch scientist Karim Maredia has been named to the High Level African Panel on Emerging Technologies.

Karim Maredia on an African farm.

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State University (MSU) AgBioResearch scientist Karim Maredia has been named to the High Level African Panel on Emerging Technologies (High Level-APET). He is the only non-African scientist to serve on the panel.

The High Level-APET was commissioned by the leaders of the African Union to help the 55 countries of Africa take advantage of new, cutting-edge technologies in fields such as agriculture, medicine, energy and natural resources management. An MSU Department of Entomology professor and director of the World Technology Access Program, Maredia has extensive experience helping to build capacity for new technologies across the developing world. The team will work to help African nations strengthen their legal and regulatory systems to manage and adopt emerging technologies.

“I was honored to be called to serve on the panel,” Maredia said. “It’s a great honor, but it’s also a great responsibility. The documents and recommendations we develop will impact policy decisions in the 55 member countries of the African Union and, therefore, the lives of over one billion people.”

Maredia joins a team of nine other researchers from universities and organizations around the world with backgrounds ranging from agricultural genetics to public health. Together, they will identify the most promising new technologies that present immediate gains to people across the African continent and help the governments of those countries build the capacity to regulate and implement the technologies.

Helping to connect communities and governments with important new technologies from around the world and build the capacity to understand and use them has been a cornerstone of Maredia’s work since he came to MSU in 1989. Most recently, he connected policymakers from Ethiopia with seed companies in India to transfer modern crop cultivars that met the needs of smallholding farmers.

“When it comes to bringing new technologies to countries in Africa, there’s no reason for us to reinvent the wheel, so to speak,” Maredia said. “By taking advantage of the strong networks MSU has in Africa, India and other parts of world, we can take existing technologies from those countries and adapt them to the needs of African farmers and other end users.”

Maredia identified several technologies pioneered by MSU researchers with the potential to address pressing needs of African communities. PhotosynQ, a web-based technology developed by MSU AgBioResearch scientist David Kramer that allows farmers in the field to scan and determine the health of their crops, and ammonia fiber expansion (AFEX), a process developed by MSU AgBioResearch engineer Bruce Dale to turn postharvest excess plant material into fuel and animal feed, both hold great potential for agricultural industries across the continent.

Bringing new technologies to Africa will require a robust regulatory and infrastructural system across the continent.

“There are lots of opportunities for these advanced technologies to help people, but there are lots of barriers, too,” Maredia said. “That’s where the guidance offered by this panel, in terms of shaping human expertise, political commitment and investments, will be truly valuable. We want to maximize the benefits that these technologies bring to African farmers, consumers and the environment.”

Maredia credits the experiences offered by his time at MSU for his ability to participate in the High-Level APET.

“If they had contacted me 10 years ago, I don’t think I could have helped them,” he said. “The connections I’ve made and experience I’ve had at MSU with bringing people together and building their expertise has enabled me to do that now.”

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