Communication Factors Affecting African Policymakers' Decisions about Agricultural Biotechnology
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The purpose of this study was to develop a model for impacting decisions on agricultural biotechnology practices in food production among African policymakers. The research focused on three African countries, namely, South Africa, Malawi and Ghana. Taking into consideration the different stages and levels of engagement in biotechnology, these countries were assumed to be representative of the current heterogeneous environment of Africa regarding biotechnology adoption. Policymakers, primarily government officials, civil servants and activists, journalists, business leaders, religious leaders, farmers' leaders, and extension workers were involved as respondents and discussants in the study. Of the total number of 174 respondents, 69 were from Ghana, 76 from Malawi, and 29 from South Africa. The research instrument entitled "Communication Factors Affecting Africa Policymakers' Decisions about Agricultural Biotechnology" was designed to provide scales by which to measure understanding, knowledge, and perceptions of agricultural biotechnology, three important constructs of the overall study. These three constructs were used to design questions for 12 specific scales to measure African policymakers' socio-demographic characteristics (gender, age, education level, occupation, geographic location); worldviews and values (moral values, labeling, regulation, consumers' rights, willingness to pay); information sources (interpersonal, print, and electronic forms); understanding of agricultural biotechnology practices; perceptions of agricultural biotechnology use in food production; and attitudes toward agricultural biotechnology policies. Significant differences occurred in policymakers' understanding of biotechnology, perceptions about biotechnology, and attitudes when compared by country of origin. Respondents from Malawi had significantly less knowledge about agricultural biotechnology, held significantly lower perceptions about agricultural biotechnology, and held significantly lesser attitudes about agricultural biotechnology than did respondents from Ghana or South Africa. No significant differences existed in policymakers' understanding, perceptions, or attitudes toward biotechnology when compared by gender. The study revealed that significant moderate positive relationships occurred between the dependent variables worldviews and values, and understanding, and attitudes. These associations suggested the existence of some level of complementarities between worldviews and values, and understanding, and attitudes of African policymakers toward biotechnology for agricultural development. Other findings showed significant moderate associations between the independent variable education level and worldviews and values, and low positive associations between occupation and worldviews and values, understanding, and attitudes toward biotechnology. On the other hand, no significant associations occurred between the dependent variables and gender or country of origin in this study. In conclusion, the study showed that a critical gap exists in the understanding of biotechnology between policymakers in Africa. Educating the African public in general and those of low educational backgrounds in particular, is strongly recommended. Taking into consideration the differences in understanding agricultural biotechnology, it is further suggested that a need exists to adopt a target group approach in educating Africa policymakers about biotechnology. Another recommendation resulting from this study is the need for close collaboration between university scientists and mass media professionals as a means for raising the public's levels of trust for media, as well as accessing university scientists to the societies which they serve.
Begashaw, Belay Ejigu (2009). Communication Factors Affecting African Policymakers' Decisions about Agricultural Biotechnology. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from