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Africa-Europe research collaboration to be transformed by EC-funded research infrastructure

Boost for African research as European Commission injects €14.75M into regional research and education connectivity

AfricaConnect News | 11 May 2011

Gaborone, Botswana, and Cambridge, UK, 11 May  2011: DANTE, the international research network operator, and the European Commission’s EuropeAid Cooperation Office today announce the signature of a €14.75M contract for support to a sub-Saharan African intra-regional research networking infrastructure which is already interconnected to the pan-European research network, GÉANT. Eighty percent of the project’s funding will come from the European Commission’s EuropeAid Co-operation Office, and the remainder will be contributed by the African partners in the project.

The contract represents a significant injection of capital to develop research networking infrastructure across sub-Saharan Africa and with Europe. The initiative will dramatically accelerate the development of the Information Society in Africa, providing advanced data communications infrastructure and enabling African researchers to collaborate more easily in advanced international research projects. 

Within the framework of the Africa Caribbean Pacific Islands (ACP) programme, the AfricaConnect project will establish a high-capacity Internet network for research and education in Southern and Eastern Africa to provide the region with a gateway to global research collaboration, the objective of which is to overcome the current limitations of international research collaboration within sub-Saharan Africa and towards Europe, and to foster research and education collaboration and advancement within and between these regions.

The project will be strongly collaborative, so whilst DANTE will coordinate AfricaConnect, they will be partnered by DANTE’s regional counterpart organisations in Africa – UbuntuNet Alliance covering Eastern and Southern Africa, and WACREN covering Western and Central Africa – as well as the Association of African Universities; existing National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) in Africa (DRC, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia); and several European NRENs (Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and the UK). All will work to ensure that the project benefits all of sub-Saharan Africa.

“We are delighted to see this project underway,” said Cathrin Stöver, DANTE’s International Relations Manager. “DANTE has a strong history of supporting regional connectivity including actions in South America and Asia, and we will build on this experience to support African research and education networks as together they transform the research environment in Africa. DANTE always puts the emphasis on partnership in this kind of activity, and we are therefore excited to be working with such a strong group of partners on a project of this importance.”

Eng. Dr Francis Tusubira, CEO of the UbuntuNet Alliance agrees: “For the Alliance, this support is invaluable, since our challenges run from the macro-challenge of establishing regional connectivity in a geographical area that could contain the whole of Europe several times over, to the comparative micro-challenge of ensuring that each NREN has the human capacity to set up and operate their national network. Achievement of the impossible is our mantra, and we appreciate the support of the European Commission in this respect - their funding makes the achievement of the impossible a whole lot easier!”

DANTE will soon announce an international tender for the connectivity and equipment required for the AfricaConnect project. The infrastructure is expected to be operational by early 2012.

The AfricaConnect project is expected to last for four years, after which time the African Project Partners of AfricaConnect will ensure the sustainability of the intra-regional African research network and its direct connection to GÉANT.