What is ERAfrica?

ERAfrica is a new European Union (EU) project aimed at promoting a unified European approach to collaborating with Africa in the field of science and technology research for innovation and sustainable development. This article describes the general outline of the network, it’s aims and future events.

ERAfrica is a new European Union (EU) project aimed at promoting a unified European approach to collaborating with Africa in the field of science and technology research for innovation and sustainable development. ERAfrica forms part of the 7th Framework Programme suite of European research initiatives, and its primary objective is to create a “European Research Area Network” for the African continent, similar to other “ERA-NETS” operating in such diverse areas as Russia (ERA.Net RUS), India (New INDIGO) and Korea (KORANET).

January 2011 saw the official launch of the new EU‐Africa collaborative project for the promotion of science and technology research. Funded by the European Commission with an amount of almost 2 million Euros, ERAfrica aims to serve as template for interactions between Europe and Africa in the field of science and technology research, and as a model for future cooperative ventures between the two continents.

Our aims are to:

  • Establish a long-term framework for communication,
    collaboration
    and coordination of programme
    owners/managers related to S&T co-operation from
    Europe and Africa.
  • Reinforce EU-Africa S&T collaboration by promoting
    joint learning by African and European research programme
    owners and managers and identifying relevant
    instruments to address more effectively the global challenges
    of sustainable development.
  • Develop joint funding schemes and procedures between
    European and African programme owners aiming
    at supporting joint activities.
  • Strengthen African research capacities and improve
    the impact of research for development in Africa.
    Strengthening the impact and the influence of S&T research
    implies enhancing the transfer of new knowledge
    to the benefit of society. It also implies the achievement
    of greater coherence between research outputs and
    policies and funding instruments in other areas than
    research.

Structurally, ERAfrica consists of five work packages, each led by a different consortium member and each aimed at moving the collaborative effort from its theoretical inception through the stages of conceptualisation and policy formulation to practical implementation via the funding of actual research projects or related initiatives. In terms of the latter objective, ERAfrica is set not only to attract participation from additional European and African governments, a number of which have already expressed interest in investing in the project, but also from continental organisations and the private sector, all of which will help determine the kinds of research and innovation activities which will ultimately be supported.

With the current African participation limited to South Africa, Kenya and Egypt there is ample scope for greater continental involvement, which is a main aim of the programme, to market it not only on a bilateral level to other
African countries but also via engagement with pan‐African and regional organisations such as the African Union, NEPAD and the SADC. Needless to say, the same also goes for Europe, with the current EU membership including France, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Finland and Austria, as well as non‐EU partners Switzerland and Turkey. Representing a multinational conglomerate of diverse countries and research agencies, with additional countries already having expressed interest in participating in ERAfrica joint activities, including the Netherlands, Côte d’Ivoire, Hungary, Uganda, Italy and Cameroon, ERAfrica could well end up redefining the way in which Europe engages and collaborates with Africa in science and technology research and innovation, creating the template for future interaction between
the two continents and setting the stage for increased cooperation and mutual development.

Link to ERA-NET scheme on CORDIS:
http://cordis.europa.eu/coordination/era-net.htm

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