Questions and answers providing an overview of ERAfrica

What is ERAfrica?

ERAfrica is a joint European-African project aimed at promoting a new, unified approach to intercontinental collaboration 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 boasts as primary objective the creation of a “European Research Area Network” for the African continent, similar to other “ERA-Nets” operating in relation to areas as diverse as Russia (ERA.Net RUS), India (New INDIGO) and the Far East (KorANet).

How does it work?

Funded for start-up by the European Commission for an amount of nearly 2 million Euros, ERAfrica unites seven EU member states, two EU associated countries and three African partners in a core consortium aimed at developing and testing support and funding mechanisms for a number of joint research activities within the field of developmental science and technology. Building on analytical activities within ERAfrica and on a dialogue with interested programme owners in Europe and Africa, such mechanisms will be set up by the project consortium, although interested parties from both Europe and Africa will at any time have the opportunity to join these discussions – there is no need to be a member of the core project consortium for this. In this way, interested programme owners from inside and outside the project core consortium will ultimately make decisions on the implementation of joint pilot activities, including with regards to their own investments in the activities to be funded. On this basis ERAfrica will provide the programme owners with its expertise and central secretarial support to launch competitive calls for proposals and to select the best projects for funding, while for the programme owners partaking in such a coordinated activity involving many others will not only provide them the opportunity to help advance problem solving development within particular fields of research, but also to be part of an on-going redefinition of the way in which future cooperative endeavours between the two continents are undertaken.

How is ERAfrica different from existing cooperative ventures?

While ERAfrica seeks very much to create sustainable impact via its support to programme owners in the coordination of their activities in terms of joint funding of selected collaborative research projects and related capacity building activities, its overarching objective is the creation of a new conceptual framework for future cooperation between the European and African continents within a wide range of fields. This framework would be part of a broad multilateral engagement involving both the public and private sector in a new type of partnership, spanning many different countries and pooling resources toward the achievement of concrete, measurable goals to the benefit of all involved. Thus, while starting out as a standard FP7 ERANet, ultimately the project will redefine itself as a model for a higher level of intercontinental interaction to be applied across all types of engagements.

Who are the current members of ERAfrica?

The steering consortium is composed of twelve countries, each represented by a governmental or government-appointed agency acting as operational representative. The member countries are: Austria, Belgium, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Kenya, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey.

How does ERAfrica benefit Africa?

Firstly, ERAfrica allows for a consolidation of participation, resources and effort both in Europe and Africa, thus allowing programme owners from many countries the opportunity to work together and pool vital resources without the need for an endless series of bilateral agreements to be signed. Depending on the interest of the programme owners, it is further aimed at allowing for private sector involvement in collaborative S&T in a way which is much easier to procure within a multilateral framework than a bilateral one, thus ensuring a greater likelihood of funded activities achieving impact on the ground. And while the seed funding for the project is provided by the European Commission, the activities to be undertaken will ultimately be funded by all the participant programme owners themselves, thus assuring that ERAfrica stimulates the creation of a proper and equal partnership of interested programme owners rather than an aid- or development activity with donors on the one hand and recipients on the other.

What kind of African support does ERAfrica have?

Apart from the three African countries participating in the project’s conceptualisation and construction, at a meeting held in Mombasa on 23 and 24 June 2011, during which ERAfrica was presented to representatives from the governments of 17 African countries, all indicated their interest in the activities of the project and their support for its aims, with many further indicating that they would certainly recommend participation to their respective ministries. Represented countries included: Botswana, Burundi, DR Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Why should a programme owner participate in the activities of ERAfrica?

Simply because ERAfrica represents a serious effort to redefine the way the European continent engages with Africa, while at the same time constituting a model for how programme owners in general can cooperate more efficiently with one another on the basis of common objectives. A strong argument in favour of this coordination of programme owners’ activities in a time when the global economic situation grows increasingly precarious is that there will be less and less money available to spend on a broad range of bilateral engagements towards societal and global challenges. Through ERAfrica, the pooling of resources is expected to create strong impact where it is most needed. In this regard ERAfrica represents the future in every way, and getting in early will only increase ones chances of optimising interactions with the rest of the continent, and the world, in years to come.

How do we get involved in ERAfrica?

While it is possible to become a member of the consortium charged with implementing the ERAfrica project, this is not necessary and will not provide much advantage in relation to the actual selection and support of joint activities. As the identification of the latter - along with funding modalities, budgets and other operational details - is set to be done at a broad meeting of programme owners from Europe and Africa to be held in Alexandria, Egypt on January 18-19, 2012, it is advised that interested parties simply signal their intention to participate in this event. This will allow us to keep them up to date on logistical arrangements, while providing them with the opportunity for early contribution to the selection and definition of the joint activities to be funded. Only once the joint activities are defined in terms of their nature and scope, and a particular activity proves attractive to a programme owner, will the relevant institution be required to indicate its financial commitment, this allowing it participation and decision-making rights in the actual implementation phase to follow. Indeed, interested parties will even be able to enter into the implementation stage after the identification of ac- tivities, although in this case they will only have the opportunity to influence the details of the implementation procedure rather than the actual definition of the activity as such.

How will our contribution be spent?

The exact division of funds will be negotiated among all participating programme owners, although it is anticipated that each country’s contribution will go towards financing participants in joint projects from that country alone, thus to ensure equitable representation (juste retour principle). However, because ERAfrica activities are meant to be collaborative, joint projects to be funded will necessarily be conducted within the framework of a partnership involving three or more countries. This means that funding for individual or bilateral activities will automatically derive from multiple sources, a feature which should be particularly attractive for interested parties of limited means.

Will ERAfrica only fund research projects?

While the precise nature of activities to be funded will be decided upon in Alexandria, it is envisioned that, in addition to joint research projects, one or two complementary activities may also be supported, such as training programmes and Europe-Africa mobility funding.

What are the possible themes for ERAfrica currently being considered?

At this time no themes are being given priority consideration, so the field is wide open for different suggestions and input. Indeed, it is even possible that no specific theme will be selected but that an open call will be published instead, with the focus rather being on promoting cross-cutting disciplines via integrated funding mechanisms. All potential funders and interested stakeholders will be allowed part in this discussion however, so the ultimate outcome remains open to possibilities.

Whom do we contact for more information?

Interested parties are invited to send an email to: info@erafrica.eu or register for our news services.

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