To Harmonize or Not to Harmonize? The Case of Cross-national Biotechnology Governance in Southern Africa

Julius Tazvishaya Mugwagwa


This paper is based on a study which investigated both existing and new regulatory responses to food emergencies and bigger challenges presented by modern gene-based biotechnologies. In particular, this paper looks at the challenge of cross-national cooperation in regulation of these technologies in southern Africa. One response to this challenge which has dominated policy agendas in the region for a long time, and with more prominence after the 2002-2003 food emergency, is that of harmonization of national biosafety regulatory systems. Harmonisation is touted by its promoters as one way in which countries can buttress weaker national and sub-national regulatory capacities, and develop synergies that will place them in a strong position to deal with the dynamic challenges presented by modern biotechnologies. The desire for cross-national cooperation in biotechnology management was investigated from the broader perspective of policy convergence, with harmonization being but one of the mechanisms towards the policy convergence. A number of factors facilitating or inhibiting policy convergence were identified, including but not limited to cultural, institutional, socio-economic and policy community attributes. The paper concludes that an understanding of these factors is crucial if grounded empirical and theoretical proposals on cross-national policy convergence are to be advanced.


biotechnology, biosafety, harmonisation, policy convergence, African Union, SADC, NEPAD

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