AfricaConnect seeks to address the findings of the FEAST Study and the objectives and priorities of the ACP Connect Programme, to contribute to the modernisation and development of education and research in Sub-Saharan countries. It aims to improve connectivity for research and education within sub-Saharan Africa by providing research networking infrastructure within the region, and organising a direct interconnection of the resulting regional network to GÉANT, AfricaConnect will also build the capacity of other sub-Saharan countries that are not ready by the start of the project so that they are enabled to later join the network.
AfricaConnect aims to:
- Foster the development of cooperative research programmes between the European and the African research and education communities;
- Provide infrastructure that supports the development and deployment of the applications exploiting work done in Europe regarding the Information Society;
- Support the fulfilment of the region’s Millennium Development Goals;
- Develop staff capacity at all levels in the existing African NRENs, duly taking into account their immediate needs. Due to the low internet penetration, there is a great lack of skilled technical, operational and managerial staff available in the region;
- Open up the research activities in the region and build co-operation with researchers in the rest of the world. Specific research application areas cover the fields of: Health, Climate, Agriculture, Education and Environment
The AfricaConnect project plans to implement the recommendations of the FEAST study which are summarised as follows:
- The connection of Southern and Eastern African countries into a regional network using terrestrial facilities and inter-connecting them with GÉANT via a direct connection between the African regional network to be built and GÉANT. This will create a critical mass of successful national networks that will encourage the other African NRENs to develop their services and join the network. The creation of such a critical mass will, in itself, build a pool of skilled and enthusiastic staff that can help to develop the emerging networks in the region. The ease of exchange of skilled manpower between countries will assist in this capacity building carried out through the training and technical support activities in the project. By concentrating on this initial regional network, it should be possible to encourage other NRENs to join in a controlled and phased manner over the period of the project. The success of the initial implementation will encourage the development of NRENs in other countries that join later.
- The establishment of a network management and operations unit in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Construct a sustainable financial model to support the regional network both during the AfricaConnect phase and, more importantly, after the EC-funded developmental phase.
- Reinforce the national organisational models for the connected NRENs as well as the regional network(s). This will focus on developing technical, operational, and managerial capacity as well as policy aspects of these organisations.
- Work with the Association of African Universities Research and Education Networking Unit through capacity building, to stimulate the establishment and growth of NRENs in countries where they do not exist, with specific focus on West and Central Africa where the newly formed NRENs will be the members of the regional research and education network, WACREN. This will enable WACREN to participate in future regional networking projects.