A brief introduction to ERAfrica by coordinator Yves Savidan (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, France)

Yves Savidan, the coordinator of ERAfrica, gives a brief introduction into the network.
The revision of the UN World Population Prospects published early in May indicates that the African population – little more than 1 billion today – will increase to two billion by 2050 and to 3.6 billion by the end of the century. Today everyone is looking towards China, but 20 years from now Africa will be the continent with the largest workforce… and the Chinese will be aging. But big changes in Africa are not limited to demography; financial experts estimate that, during the next 10 years, half the economies set to grow by more than 7% a year will be African. Africa is indeed within sight of the dawn of a new era, but we all know that huge investments in human capital development and innovation will be required.


For at the same time Africa is facing huge challenges. To feed its growing population, African agriculture will need to produce much more than it does today, while its soils are increasingly degraded, water is getting scarce in many places, and all input costs are skyrocketing. HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, along with a cohort of new illnesses linked to urbanization and dietary changes has meant that life expectancy is still below 50 years in more than 40 African countries. And food security and health are only two in a long series of challenges, most of which are linked to sustained poverty.

ERAfrica, the European Research Area Network for Africa, is an open network that aims at promoting a unified European approach to collaborating with Africa in the field of science and technology research for innovation and sustainable development. Big challenges require collaborative and coordinated approaches, but most efforts at addressing African problems thus far have been made in a strictly bilateral mode. In the past, governments, funding agencies, philanthropists, and/or private enterprises have invested in science for development in Africa without much dialogue and even less coordination.Today, however, there is a shared and increasing willingness to do more and better together. More, because the Millennium Development Goals are still too distant in Africa, and better because too many past endeavours have not been accompanied by the expected impact. ERAfrica thus also offers an important opportunity to reduce the fragmentation of the European Research Area (ERA) through increased collaboration.

 ERAfrica starts as a blank page. We are willing to invest together in Africa’s future. In which field? Or should we forget about fields and just support the best ideas? Address a single challenge or multiple challenges? Through competitive calls for proposals? Mostly through capacity building activities? What are the expectations? Now is the time for us to listen to our African partners.

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