Assisted reproductive technology (ART) in Africa (read HERE) appears to be a minor issue, given the continent’s high birth and fertility rates, but we cannot forget so-called “reproductive tourism” and the new practice of shipping gametes overseas.

Last Thursday, a Tunisian weekly news magazine, “Jeune Afrique”,  a leading publication in Africa, published an article entitled, “Medically assisted procreation: the Tunisian model is successful,” which shows a different reality.

Tunisia has 20 fertility clinics and leads ART in the continent, operating within a very clear legal framework established in 2001. The aforementioned article says that, “The subject of ART was debated at length beforehand, and one of those who initiated the reflection in Tunisia on the health of the mother and child, professor Béchir Hamza, liked to quote a hadith of the Prophet [Mohammed] – ‘The day of the Resurrection, the prophet will be proud of the size of his community and believers are encouraged to reproduce’”- before any discussion of an ethical nature.”

From a biomedical and bioethics point of view, the mother and child’s health are important, but no less important is respect for the life of embryos. In this respect, the author says that, “As a result, Tunisia only grants ART to married couples, prohibits the donation of sperm or oocytes and minimizes surplus embryos (conceived during in vitro fertilization and that can be frozen)”. We welcome the ban on gamete donation, perhaps one of the more relevant ethical issues in ART and less considered in Western countries.

One of the leaders of assisted reproduction in Africa

Tunisia has been a pioneer in abortion and birth control since 1960 and now assisted reproduction in Africa. While we have objective bioethical reasons to denounce ART, we welcome the laws that regulate it in this African country.