Multiple meanings, one objective: The case of biotechnology policy convergence in Africa

Policy convergence, defined as the growth in similarity of policies over time, constitutes a central concept in comparative public policy, yet a great deal of ambiguity and contention surrounds it. The article discusses the conceptual and practical meanings of policy convergence in the context of efforts to harmonise biosafety systems across various regions of Africa. The article comes from a broader investigation of the ways in which three supranational organisations, the African Union (AU), New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are influencing processes towards the harmonised biosafety systems in southern Africa. Unearthing different stakeholders understandings of what convergence or harmonisation are, and how they can be achieved, the article argues that an illumination of the different framings of these concepts is crucial, not for the sake of eliminating differences between these understandings, but in order to illustrate the divergent realities and their potential to facilitate or inhibit policy making processes.