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African governments should harmonise their laws to safeguard countries from the invasive species, an expert said on Tuesday, February 27, 2018.

Invasive alien species:. An invasive North American mink predating a gannet chick in the Firth of Forth, Scotland. Photo credit: BirdLife International

Invasive species are plants, fungus, or animal species that is not native to a specific location, and that has a tendency to spread to a degree believed to cause damage to the environment, human economy or human health.

Martha Byanyima, expert on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) at the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), said many countries have experienced devastating economic losses due to attacks from invasive pests in the recent years.

“We need to have a harmonised law that enables countries to trade in a liberalised economy and also protect them from invasions by unwanted species,” Byanyima told Xinhua in Nairobi.

She called for a harmonised approach since regulations that are being applied in almost all countries are not coordinated.

Byanyima said that although most African countries have signed both the WHO-SPS agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), legislation, enforcement is still weak or in some countries lacking.

“As a result, the weakness has allowed the introduction of Invasive Alien Species at a faster rate,” she added.

Byanyima said the impacts of the loss on livelihoods undermine the trends made on trade liberalisation in the region.

She urged the countries to integrate their model and strengthen their bio-security to safeguard internal and external trade.

According to Byanyima, COMESA has embarked on strengthening bio-security of Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Burundi with aim of equipping them to respond to their needs on safeguarding their territories from invasive species.

Byanyima noted that the regional economic body has entered into a working relationship with the Australian government on how best the member countries can leverage their resources in tackling the general problems.

She called for investment in agriculture since it is the mainstay of most economies in the continent.

According to experts, with climate change becoming the biggest challenge in the continent, old pests and diseases, new biological risks and the invasive alien species are now threatening economies of most countries in the continent.

Scientists have referred to invasive alien species coupled with climate change as a “deadly duo” as they are regarded as one of the biggest threats to plant species.

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