Preparing for the Africa Research Grants

CAAST-NET website. The African Union (AU) hopes to launch the first call for proposals for its 15 million Euro Africa research grants in November this year. The grant is considered a mini version of the seventh Framework programme (FP7), the European Union’s chief funding instrument for research and development.

The mini grants will fund collaborative research in agriculture and post-harvest technology to preserve crops as well as renewable energy, and water and sanitation, says Ahmed Hamdy, head of science, technology and ICT (Information and Communication Technology) at the AU’s Department of Human Resources, Science and Technology (HRST) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Hamdy, an Egyptian-born geoscientist, says the research grant is one of many ways to “integrate African scientists,” who are often said to work in isolation.

“It will assist in integrating African scientists because we will fund consortia,” says Hamdy. Although the criteria for funding is still being fine-tuned, the AU will expect the consortia to use the funding to develop infrastructure and improve human capital.

“We will, for example, require the consortia to mentor a postgraduate student,” says Hamdy, whose own experience includes being a team leader for the space geodesy teams at the Korea Astronomy Observatory and the Chonbuk National University in South Korea.

The consortia will also be expected to comprise two African countries who are members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific group of states (ACP) and two non-ACP countries, says Hamdy. Hamdy was hesitant to commit to a date of the launch for the call for proposals.

However, an official from the European Union said earlier this year that the grant is expected to be launched at the Africa-Europe summit in Tripoli, Libya, which is being held from 29 to 30 November.

The AU announced the research grant in March 2009. The grant is one of 19 lighthouse projects proposed by the AU, and is meant to help establish an African framework programme for research.

The European Development Fund will finance the grant, according to Fadila Boughanemi, the European Commission’s senior policy officer for science and technology cooperation with African, Caribbean and Pacific group of states.

“The idea is to start small but hope to grow bigger soon,” she told delegates at the third assembly of the Network for Coordination and Advancement of Sub-Saharan Africa-EU Science and Technology Cooperation (CAAST-Net), held in Durban, South Africa in May 2010.

For more information, Ahmed Hamdy can be contacted on HAMDYA@africa-union.org

Story ideas? Email Deborah-Fay Ndhlovu, Senior Reporter at Research Africa, at dfn@research-africa.net.

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