On May 11th 2021, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of AfricaConnect. In this article, we give the floor to those who were involved in the kick-start of the project since its very beginning, even prior to 2011! Thanks to all those who shared their insights and take on the success and expectations of the project.
Leonardo Flores Añover, European Commission’s Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and TechnologyLFAAfricaConnect is one of my finest professional and personal achievements, not because of what I could contribute, but from what I received from the people that I met in the project. I learnt so much from your enthusiasm and hard work to overcome all the challenges and the obstacles along the way! Congratulations! You are turning a great idea into a great reality. For me, the project is a major contributor to improve the enormous human capital potential in Africa, demonstrating that connectivity and digital infrastructures are essential for development and growth.
Thierry Devars, European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research & InnovationTDI am particularly proud to have been one of the AfricaConnect early promoters who fought to convince about the relevance of the project and to secure funding for its launch 10 years ago. Since then, AfricaConnect has generated new dynamics for empowering the African research and education community, providing African RENs with more reliable and affordable high-speed connectivity and bringing new perspectives for training and scientific collaborations, not only across the continent but also at international level. The value of the project and its transformative role go however much beyond the connectivity it brings. AfricaConnect carries indeed a broader expectation to federate all actors, including policy-makers and regulators, to shift the identification of priorities and investments for EU-Africa cooperation and joint development by putting much greater emphasis on knowledge creation and sharing.
Konstantinos Glinos, European Commission Directorate-General for Research & InnovationKGI feel proud and privileged to have contributed to the creation of AfricaConnect, which was born on 11 May 2011 after several years of intensive preparations – both in Africa and Europe – to demonstrate feasibility and overcome a myriad of obstacles. That day in Gaborone, when I delivered a brown envelope with the first signed AfricaConnect contract to Tusu Tusubira and Cathrin Stöver on-stage during the IST-Africa conference, will remain a cherished memory – for good reason as proven again and again during the last 10 years: not only has AfricaConnect provided affordable high-speed connectivity to universities across Africa for teaching, learning and research; it has also been a platform for skills development in digital science; and has made possible critical applications, from remote surgery to geoinformatics. I wish to AfricaConnect continued rapid development so that the entire African continent can make the transition to open data-intensive research and ensure access to digital resources for all.
Björn Pehrson, Royal Institute of Technology in StockholmBPAfricaConnect makes all the difference for African Research and Higher Education Institutions. Such institutions have to be connected to the Global Research and Education Network to keep up and stay relevant.
To me, this anniversary is the 20th. In 2001, my then PhD student from UEM, Americo Muchanga, came across an under-used fiber cable between Maputo and Johannesburg that could have changed academic life in Mz, were it not for a then prohibitive regulatory framework in South Africa. In response to that, thanks to Astrid Dufborg and the UN ICT Task Force, Sida decided in 2002 to argue for open access to communication infrastructure by supporting a series of annual workshops 2003-2010. The series contributed to awareness-raising and had a major impact on the World Bank policies for supporting ICT infrastructure.
In my mind, 2005 is a landmark year. Thanks to Americo and Heloise Hendon at IDRC, the case to look for more accessible fiber in other neighboring countries and evaluate their regulatory regimes could be made at the AAU Congress in Cape Town in February 2005. Here Margaret Ngwira and Duncan Martin participated, both dedicated key actors in the following process.
After discussions at the Open Access workshop in May 2005 in Maputo, thanks to Heloise and Steve Song, IDRC also decided to fund the SARUA Fiber project (2005-2006). This project midwifed the Ubuntunet Alliance at its first meeting in Johannesburg in July 2005. During a workshop at CERN in September 2005, it caught the eyes of Mario Campolargo and Carmen Mena at the European Commission. The Ubuntunet Alliance was presented to the world at a side workshop to WSIS in Tunis in November 2005.
Eventually, all this led to the decision by the European commission and AAU, thanks to Boubakar Barry, to fund the Feasibility study for AfricaConnect (FEAST 2008-2010), and ultimately to EU support for AfricaConnect itself. I can only congratulate all that have been involved in this important project and wish all the best for coming years.