Scientific and technological development holds a huge potential for sub-Saharan countries. The EU is an important partner for the region to achieve progress in this area. The ‘Network for the Coordination and Advancement of sub-Saharan Africa-EU Science & Technology Cooperation’ (CAAST-Net) provides a framework for promoting and improving this cooperation.
“CAAST-Net is a platform which promotes exchange and cooperation through discussion with stakeholders”, explains Dr Andy Cherry, CAAST-Net Coordinator and Science and Technology Adviser. “We are bringing people together discuss the nature of cooperation and analyse how it could be bettered.”
In practice, this dialogue can take on different forms. While the platform does not associate itself with thematic priorities set out in the framework of the joint strategy, meetings between European and African experts on specific themes are organised. “For instance, CAAST-Net has brought together experts in the areas of non-communicable diseases, renewable energies and rural electrification, and in the social sciences”, Dr Cherry explains. “The experts were asked to come up with recommendations which CAAST-Net then put forward to the European Commission for support through the Research Framework Programme (FP7).”
"Awareness about the programme varies widely from country to country across the continent, with some countries such as South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, Tunisia among others having a fair success rate," says Dr Andy Cherry, CAAST-Net Coordinator and Science and Technology Adviser.
Policy dialogue is another key activity. Since there is not yet a permanent official high-level policy platform in the field of science and technology between Europe and sub-Saharan Africa, CAAST-Net conducts activities which generate outputs on the nature of the cooperation.
In addition to these activities, CAAST-Net also provides information and training on FP7. This involves providing advice about how to get involved in the programme. “In sub-Saharan Africa, this is of particular importance since the programme is less well known than in Europe”, says Dr Cherry.
CAAST-Net is part of a wider effort to boost science and technology cooperation between the EU and different regions of the world through linking high-level institutions on both sides through supporting policy dialogue platforms. These so-called INCO-Net projects were set up to promote and structure the participation of these regions in the activities of FP7.
The INCO-Net covering North Africa as part of the Mediterranean region is covered by MIRA, short for ‘Mediterranean Innovation and Research Co-ordination Action’. Close cooperation is taking place between the two sister projects.
Taking cooperation to the local level
Action at local level is key to achieving progress on continental priorities. This is why CAAST-Net has made the support for cooperation between Europe and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) one of its priorities for the near future. “The RECs in Africa have a major role in accomplishing the African Union’s mission and in implementing its priorities”, says Dr Cherry. “CAAST-Net, in recognition of that role, is trying to build a relationship between Europe and the RECs, wherever there is scope to do that.”
The European Union is providing a financial contribution of €4.2 million over the 2008-2012 period to support the platform. The funding is made available under the ‘Capacities’ programme of FP7.