An important activity in ERAfrica is the mobilisation of African experts, programme owners and programme managers and other international organis ations, civil society organisations and charity organisations supporting S&T in Africa to participate in ERAfrica project activities.
In order to address this, an African briefing session was held in Mombasa, Kenya, on the 23rd and 24th of June 2011 organised under the auspices of the Kenyan Ministry for Higher Education, Science and Technology.
The main objectives of the African Briefing Session were:
The invited participants were senior officials and policy makers from various governments, ministries of Science and Technology, national and regional research institutions or Regional Economic Communities (RECs) with experience in EU-AU cooperation, as well as participants from key regional organisations in Africa that are engaged in or support and fund EU-AU collaborative research activities.
The event was attended by representatives from 17 African countries from all regions, namely, Botswana, Burundi, DR Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Besides these some regional bodies and organisations (based in Africa) supporting scientific research in Africa attended, including the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), UNESCO, The Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA), FAO, and the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) and the Regional Economic Communities, among others.
In the course of the workshop, during both the plenary sessions and breakaway groups, all participants were invited to scrutinise the structure and planned operationalisation of ERAfrica, and to provide comments on the thematic area most appropriate for the project to focus on, as well as on the types of activities in which it should seek to engage.
Discussions held were lively and well-informed, and while a number of possibilities for an initial focus area for ERAfrica activities were raised, most participants were partial to joint projects mutually financed by all participating entities, whether governmental or private. But it was advised that one or two complementary, support activities should also be considered, notably training programmes and inter-African mobility funding. In all cases support for the project was overwhelming, and a number of representatives indicated that they would certainly recommend participation to their respective ministries, thus promising an imminent, and significant, expansion of ERAfrica on the continent to which the project owes its name.
Participants’ views on African scientific challenges during the Briefing Session dialogue
As a result of the various brainstorming sessions, a broad range of societal challenges which need scientific innovation interventions and knowledge-based solutions were listed. These included: climate change, food security, energy security, natural resources, quality and quantity of human resources, approaches and methodology, popularisation of science, entrepreneurship, strategic planning and policy as well as strategic partnerships and alliances, governance (legal frameworks to support STI development), IPR, health care, financial resources, education and R&D infrastructure, commercialisation of research outputs. Priority areas were identified as climate change, food security and nutrition, energy security, health care, natural resources and hazards and disasters.
It is important to note that the above challenges are not new. Therefore, the key questions for ERAfrica to address are:
The above questions will be addressed through a sequential series of planned ERAfrica project activities (discussed later in this newsletter) which include the European Briefing Session (Brussels, October 21, 2011) and a strategic meeting with EU-AU programme owners to define concrete joint activities in Alexandria, Egypt, on January 18-19 in 2012.
It is therefore hoped that ERAfrica will steer the process of providing answers to the issues raised above through enhanced and innovative EU-AU S&T cooperation strategies.