8. Science, information society and space

EU In today’s world, scientific research and technology have become key factors to economic and social growth. Unfortunately, the scientific and digital divides on the African continent are hindering Africa’s full participation in today’s globalised knowledge society. Activities in this partnership focus on this issue, including a high level political dialogue and consultation on common positions in international conferences. Space applications can assist in effectively addressing many of the most pressing challenges facing the African continent such as water and food security, monitoring impacts of climate change, healthcare and education.

Who will benefit from the partnership and how?

Many different categories of African citizens will benefit from the partnership.

Examples include:

  • Internet access will be boosted because broadband communication prices will drop drastically
  • New applications specifically dedicated to Africa will emerge
  • Employment will be created in the research, ICT and space sectors
  • R&D will provide crops that are insect- and bacteria resistant so that fewer insecticides need to be used
  • African indigenous plants will be increasingly used in the pharmaceutical sector
  • European citizens will also benefit since medicines developed from African raw materials can and will be used in the North

What has been achieved so far?

The partnership has led to a number of outcomes, including:

  • The African Research Grants scheme
  • The Kwame Nkrumah Science Awards
  • The Framework Programme 7 (FP7) special Africa Call by the European Commission’s Research and Development department
  • Africa, the African Internet Exchange project (see example below)
  • The GMES (African Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) & Africa process, setting-up an overall framework in Africa for earth observation applications (see example below)
  • The HIPSSA project (Support for Harmonization of ICT Policies in Sub-Sahara Africa) with 43 beneficiary countries. It should contribute to a level-playing field for the private sector to enter the telecom market, to lead to better service and lower costs
  • The extension of the AVICENNA project of which the final objective is to create an online African virtual campus network for Science and Technology (S&T) education

Example: GMES and Africa

A key element of the EU’s space-based contribution to African sustainability is provided by the “GMES and Africa” (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) initiative which aims to strengthen space and ground-based infrastructure to allow Earth observation data to be used for environment and resource management, to monitor climate change and to contribute to peace and security in Africa. The Action Plan for GMES and Africa is being drafted by representatives of the European Commission, EU Member States, the European Space Agency and EUMESTSAT together with their African Union counterparts. The Action Plan should be finalised in 2011 so that services under the GMES and Africa Programme can be better designed to serve African needs.

Example: Africa and EGNOS

The African Union and European Union are cooperating on how to improve satellite navigation in African skies to enhance safety and contribute to Africa’s economic development. For this purpose the EU and AU are working together to extend to the whole of the African continent the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay System (EGNOS). This system which has been operational in Europe since 2009, could be deployed across Africa from 2014. EGNOS would dramatically improve air and maritime transport safety in Africa. It will bring significant benefits for African sustainability in other areas, notably in agriculture, mining, energy and land management.

Example: AfricaConnect

The EU funds the ACP Connect project, covering sub-Saharan Africa as well as Caribbean and Pacific countries. Under this project, €12 million from the 10th EDF have been granted to support the deployment of regional research and education networks in Africa and their interconnection with the European GEANT network, the pan-European data network connecting the research and education community across 40 countries. The objective is to provide the African scientific community with better access to research and education resources and higher capacity transit to the Internet. More specifically, the project notably focuses on the building and interconnection of “National Research and Education Networks” (NRENs) and the promotion of the use of existing and planned networks to the end-users (students, researchers, doctors).

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