18th December 2019 | Brussels, Belgium |
Following the success of predecessor projects ‘AfricaConnect’ and ‘AfricaConnect2’, Africa’s three regional Research and Education Networks (RENs) UbuntuNet Alliance, West and Central African Research and Education Network (WACREN) and the Arab States Research and Education Network (ASREN), in partnership with Europe’s leading collaboration on e-infrastructure and services GÉANT, have signed a new €37.5m contract agreement with the European Union (EU) to extend their regional networks and continue providing high-speed internet connectivity and services to National Research and Education Networks across Africa.
Signing of the contract agreement took place in Brussels, Belgium today at a ceremony presided over by EU officials and representatives from the four partners.
Under AfricaConnect3, which will run for four years until 2023, the EU is contributing €30m towards the project budget with the three African regional RENs raising the remaining €7.5m.
Specifically, the AfricaConnect3 project aims to enhance human capital development in Africa especially through the advocacy of rapid increases in the use of digital technologies by African research and education institutions.
Building on the success of the predecessor projects, which brought dedicated high-speed internet connectivity to students and researchers and opened a gateway to international collaboration, AfricaConnect3 will specifically strive to ensure that:
- Access to adequate and affordable-e-infrastructure for tertiary education and research institutions is improved.
- Dedicated services and applications are developed for the benefit of education and research communities.
- Adequate human resource capacity and expertise is built within education and research communities.
- Awareness of the role of digital transformation for education and research is raised.
Currently, 15 African countries deploy the global wi-fi roaming service eduroam at universities and research institutions with a further five countries running pilots. From job creation to empowering women in STEM to the birth of African Open Science initiatives and in support of data-intensive scientific international collaborations, the AfricaConnect project – in all its phases – contributes to the digital transformation in the African research and education community and, in turn, fights brain drain and fosters development on the continent.
AfricaConnect3 has been split into four contracts signed between the European Commission and the individual regional RENs of GÉANT, UbuntuNet Alliance, WACREN and ASREN.
GÉANT will be responsible for network procurement activities for the three African regional RENs and overall project coordination while UbuntuNet Alliance, WACREN and ASREN will be responsible for all their specific activities.
Domenico Rosa, Head of Unit Strategic Partnerships EU-AFRICA, CARIBBEAN and PACIFIC, EU-African Union – DG Development and International Cooperation-European Commission says: “The EC is delighted to partner with African RENs and GÉANT from Europe to leverage the great results from the previous two phases of the AfricaConnect Project to further push digital transformation for African research and education institutions.”
GÉANT CEO, Erik Huizer sees AfricaConnect3 as an opportunity for wider collaboration: “GÉANT is delighted to be part of this project, and thankful to the European Commission for the grant. We look forward to continue working with our African partners. The European research and education community shows an increasing demand for communication and information sharing with their African peers. So, we see this project as not only improving access for Africa’s students and researchers, but really benefiting the global community. GÉANT’s long-standing and well-proven expertise in procurement will be integral to the success of this project.”
For UbuntuNet Alliance, CEO Eng. Dr. Matthews Mtumbuka believes AfricaConnect3 will accelerate research and education breakthroughs throughout Africa: “Without this funding, it would take decades to achieve the breakthroughs we see happening in the research and education arena across Africa by 2023. For this we as UbuntuNet Alliance in particular and Africa in general are infinitely grateful to the European Commission.”
Dr. Boubakar Barry, WACREN CEO Comments: “We at WACREN are very excited to see the launch of AfricaConnect3 thanks to funding from the European Commission. AfricaConnect2 allowed us to deploy the first phase of the WACREN backbone and to connect first countries in the region to the global research and education network. AfricaConnect3 will allow to connect more countries and to expand the backbone, providing to thousands and thousands of users in higher education and research institutions in West and Central unprecedented high speed connectivity and advanced services.”
ASREN’s Co-Managing Director, Yousef Torman welcomes the start of AfricaConnect3, which will build upon the successes of AfricaConnect and AfricaConnect2: “This funding will help us to resume the developments of research and education infrastructures in Africa, and now with more focus on engagements with user communities through various services including: access federation, education roaming and promoting Open Access.”
About UbuntuNet Alliance
UbuntuNet Alliance is the regional Research and Education Networking organisation for Eastern and Southern Africa. It plans, builds and operates UbuntuNet, the regional high-speed internet network dedicated to research and education in Eastern and Southern Africa. The Alliance also promotes and supports the integration of advanced ICT services and tools in research, teaching and learning, taking advantage of the opportunities that come with the Internet. The Alliance was established in the latter half of 2005 by five established and emerging National Research and Education Networks (NRENs), namely MAREN (Malawi), MoRENet, (Mozambique), KENET (Kenya), RwEdNet (Rwanda) and TENET (South Africa). The Membership region of the Alliance spans across Eastern and Southern Africa, covering 26 countries. Currently, 16 countries have joined the Alliance and are at different stages of development. The Alliance is incorporated as a Trust in Malawi and registered and recognized as an International Organisation with its secretariat in Lilongwe, Malawi and a technical hub in Kampala, Uganda.
The West and Central African Research and Education Network (WACREN) was established in 2010. Currently with 16 members, WACREN’s objective is the promotion and establishment of interconnections between national research and education networks in West and Central Africa to form a regional research and education network, the interconnection of this network with other regional and continental networks, and the provision of services aiming at fostering collaboration between research and education institutions in the region as well as between them and peer institutions at continental and international levels. To achieve its goal, WACREN works not only with educational and research institutions, but also with bodies such as regional economic communities (ECOWAS, ECCAS, UEMOA), telecommunications regulators and a number of national policy and decision-making institutions in West and Central Africa.
ASREN, the Arab States Research and Education Network, is a non-profit international organisation, registered in Germany, and operates under the umbrella of the League of Arab States. ASREN is the association of the Arab region National Research and Education Networks (NRENs), as well as their strategic partners that aim to implement, manage and extend sustainable Pan-Arab e-Infrastructures dedicated for the research and education communities and to boost scientific research and cooperation in member countries through the provision of world-class e-Infrastructures and e-services. The goal is to connect Arab institutions among themselves and to the globe through high-speed data-communications networks; boost pan-Arab collaborative research and education projects and activities; and contribute to promote scientific research, innovation and education across the Arab region.
GÉANT is Europe’s leading collaboration on network and related infrastructure and services for the benefit of research and education, contributing to Europe’s economic growth and competitiveness. The organisation develops, delivers and promotes advanced network and associated e-infrastructure services, and supports innovation and knowledge-sharing amongst its members, partners and the wider research and education networking community. For more information, visit www.geant.org.
Further Press Information:
Communications Officer/ UbuntuNet Alliance
Africa-Europe Alliance: EU boosts pan-African Internet connectivity with €30 million