There are many opportunities for public and private investors to support Science and Technology in Africa as a driver for sustainable development. The objective of this paper is to highlight the main specificities that make upcoming joint activities of European and African programme owners (creating a Group of Funding Parties, or GFP1), which will be launched by ERAfrica, an especially attractive initiative to support.
For decades, most S&T projects in Africa have been funded from outside. Governments, private sector, foundations, charities have supported projects responding mostly to their strategies and priorities. Facing many urgent challenges, the African governments usually ranked S&T relatively low in their agendas. The consciousness that S&T represents a key driver to development has been growing since the early 2000s, notably supported by the example given by emerging economies that invested heavily in S&T. Along that line African countries are investing their own budgets in Science and Technology to a growing extend with a target of 1% until 2020. This allows African countries to participating in the definition, implementation and funding of ERAfrica’s joint activities on equal footing driven by their own interest. They will have the same rights and responsibilities as their European partners regarding the design, the governance, the implementation, the monitoring and evaluation of the joint activities.
2. Responding to real needs
The ERAfrica initiative allows the participating programme owners to shape joint activities in response to real shared interests of the participating countries and real needs of the society, North and South. The is no pre--‐defined framework.
3. Mutual Learning
ERAfrica allows implementing a test case for the management of multilateral funding programmes according to international standards building on the best expertise of participating programme owners.
For programme owners, ERAfrica will provide a unique opportunity to share experiences from bilateral activities in order to advance their own funding programmes with Africa and Europe.
At the end, an assessment of the Pilot Activities is foreseen to jointly learn lessons and further improve the performance and impact of joint programmes.
4. Complementing bilateral approaches
Most importantly, and for programme owners of both continents, it will be possible to gain advantage from a coordinated approach of national or bilateral activities to increase the impact of their own programmes, thus allowing research performing institutions to combine knowledge and resources at a multilateral scale to better address and provide solutions, in partnership, for burning societal and global challenges.
5. Freedom to operate
Although ERAfrica is a coordination instrument brought to life by a Network funded by the European Commission, the group of funding parties (GFP) will have total freedom to develop its own terms of reference for Joint Activities. In the case of a call for research projects, for instance, the GFP may develop and/or use a very simple format for posting proposals directly online. It may also decide on specific criteria, such as the number of African participants in a proposal, aiming at fostering inter--‐Africa cooperation and/or age of the principal investigators, aiming at strengthening the development of a new generations of scientists in Africa. etc. The ERAfrica initiative can be an opportunity to launch joint activities of a new type, activities that have never been tested before.
This freedom to operate can therefore affect both the simplicity of the processes –assuring at the same time high managerial quality‐ and the novelty of the approaches.