Breaching the final frontier in Africa

Africa and EU in Partnership official website. The eighth partnership seeks to bridge the scientific and digital divides so prominent in Africa. Efforts in this partnership include projects on space, which is what delegates at the 11th Implementation Team Meeting discussed when they met in Brussels on 15 April.

The next JEG meeting, to be held in Durban, South Africa on 18-20 May, will be held back-to-back with the General Assembly of CAAST-net and the IST Africa Conference. The reason it is being organised only a few months after the last JEG meeting is in order to give the eighth partnership more visibility and to attract more high-level representatives. A workshop on GMES Africa will also be held prior to the JEG.

The European Commission gave an overview of the main meetings to take place between now and the 3rd Africa-EU Summit in November.

The German delegate stressed the role of the Implementation Team in forming the 2nd Action Plan, and the need to involve the European Competitiveness Council in this. The upcoming Belgian Presidency of the EU, in the second half of 2010, proposed to organise a JEG meeting in Brussels, to be held during a conference on ‘Space technologies for African citizens’, on 14-15 September. These proposals were warmly welcomed by delegates.

Environmental monitoring

Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) developments in Africa were presented by the Portuguese delegate, and a number of important issues were raised. During the JEG meeting in Cairo, a new roadmap was agreed and a team of African countries interested in direct involvement in the project was created. The Portuguese delegate stressed that GMES and Africa should not be seen as a project but rather as a partnership that brings together many projects under one umbrella.

Implementation concerns of the roadmap were highlighted by the delegate from the Joint Research Centre (JRC) who is calling for increased involvement of African Member States. He raised concerns about the lack of progress in the implementation of the tasks in the roadmap, especially with regard to the financing of upcoming workshops. He urged a debate to take place on the technical aspect of the current draft for the Action Plan on GMES Africa, as this has not yet happened.

Future possibilities

The private sector was invited, and a representative of Thales Alenia Space, gave an overview of some of the possible projects for the eighth partnership. EGNOS Africa was presented to the meeting as a possible future project: it is a satellite-based navigation system, which, when used jointly with GPS (the American version), gives enhanced security. If EGNOS were to be extended to cover Africa (it currently covers Europe), it would dramatically increase access to regional airports across the continent, he said. In addition, it would benefit navigation in road, rail and maritime transport. The European Commission followed this up by updating delegates on the progress of rolling out EGNOS throughout Africa, as agreed on in the 1st Action Plan of the eighth partnership.

Another project proposal presented by Thales was SatCom Aero, which is a satellite communication-based system which would allow Africa to deal with increased air traffic across the continent.

It was agreed that a concept paper should be prepared outlining the above projects in preparation for the Africa-EU Summit in November.

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