By Evans Dakwa
The University of Zimbabwe’s state-of-the-art biotechnology lab, recently inaugurated, not only positions Zimbabwe to meet its requirements for capacity building, surveillance, diagnosis, monitoring, and control of animal and zoonotic diseases, but also has the potential to become a regional hub for top-notch research collaborations among scientists from the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
The biotechnology center’s laboratory is the result of collaborative efforts from various partners, including the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD), the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD), the Department of Veterinary Services of the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, Climate, and Rural Development, and the University of Zimbabwe. It aims to provide practical training in cutting-edge technologies for the surveillance of animal and zoonotic diseases, as well as host students from the University of Zimbabwe and other universities across the country for basic training in serology and molecular biology, integrated into university curricula. Moreover, its impact is intended to extend beyond national borders.
During the commissioning ceremony, Professor Paul Mapfumo, Vice Chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe, expressed gratitude to the French government and its development agencies for their support in establishing the biotechnology center. He emphasized that the center would not only support advanced research in Zimbabwe but also in the wider SADC region.
“The bio-molecular platform could not have arrived at a more opportune time, as it serves as a catalyst for our efforts and aligns with the University’s vision of becoming a global center of excellence in research and innovation by 2035. This laboratory has made a significant contribution to one of our flagship programs in the field of veterinary science, providing a facility that will support advanced research, not only within the country but also within the SADC region and beyond,” stated Professor Mapfumo.
He continued, “This advanced laboratory has the potential to become a center of excellence in Zimbabwe, the region, and across Africa. It will enable us to analyze, detect, and establish an effective surveillance system for animal diseases. Furthermore, it will complement human health in addressing diseases that affect both animals and humans through the concept of ‘one health.’ The capabilities of this laboratory are vast.”
Dr. Mathieu Bourgarel, the CIRAD representative in Zimbabwe, expressed great satisfaction with the commissioning of the biotechnology center, which will enhance the country’s capacity to tackle animal and zoonotic diseases through cutting-edge research.
“All the equipment you have seen in the lab was imported from overseas, and I am proud to say that what we have here in Zimbabwe is equivalent to the equipment found in CIRAD’s own laboratories in France, where it serves as a reference lab for several diseases worldwide. We have brought to the country the capacity to genuinely develop research on animal and zoonotic diseases,” he said.
Among all the African countries where CIRAD operates, Zimbabwe is the first nation to receive support in establishing such a biotechnology center equipped with first-class technology and equipment that effectively support research, enabling the country to respond to periodic diseases like the recent attack of the January disease on its national herd.
The biotech center received funding of 2 million Euros from the French Agency for Development (AFD), with additional contributions from the University of Zimbabwe, CIRAD, and IRD.