Connecting African and European researchers by internet

CAAST-Net AfricaConnect, a four-year-long internet project between education and research institutions within Europe and sub-Saharan Africa, is scheduled to begin next year. The objective of the project is “to overcome the current limitations of international research collaboration within sub-Saharan Africa and towards Europe, and to foster research and education and advancement within and between these regions,” according to an AfricaConnect press statement.

The “project will establish a high-capacity internet network for research and education in Southern and Eastern Africa to provide the region with a gateway to global research collaboration.”

The 11-country West and Central African Research and Education Network (WACREN), led by Tiémoman Koné, the director of information sevices at the University of Cocody in Abidjan, Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire), is another partner in the AfricaConnect project.

WACREN was established last year and is based at the Accra, Ghana, offices of the Association of African Universities, which is another project participant. WACREN builds organisational and technical capacity within national bodies such as the Sénégalese National Research and Education Network (Le Réseau National d’Éducation et de Recherche du Sénégal or SenRER) and the Ghana Research and Academic Network (GARNET).

National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) in Eastern and Southern Africa are also participating in the project. NRENs are specialised internet service providers within a country which offer high-speed bandwidth support for research and education projects.

The UbuntuNet Alliance for Research and Education Networking, a non-profit association of NRENs covering thirteen countries in eastern and southern Africa, is a regional partner in the AfricaConnect project.

The UbuntuNet Alliance, chaired by former University of Malawi vice-chancellor Zimani Kadzamira, has been involved since 2005 in efforts to secure high-speed, affordable connectivity for the African research and education community.

European NRENS involved with the AfricaConnect project include Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and the United Kingdom (UK).

The Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe (DANTE), an international research network operator, is coordinating the AfricaConnect project.

Cathrin Stöver, who is the international relations manager for DANTE, said that the project will also help the region to network with researchers in Europe.

DANTE said in the statement that the AfricaConnect project will soon launch an international tender to invite companies to provide the infrastructure, including connectivity and equipment.

“The initiative will dramatically accelerate the development of the Information Society in Africa,” said a statement released on the DANTE website.

The advanced data communications infrastructure ”will enable African researchers to collaborate more easily in advanced international research projects,” DANTE said.

AfricaConnect is already interconnected with the Gigabit European Advanced Network Technology (GÉANT), a high-bandwidth computer network connecting 30 million researchers across 34 European countries, the statement said.

The ultimate goal of AfricaConnect, the statement said, is to promote collaboration among African researchers, and between African researchers and their counterparts in Europe.

The contract, which is worth 14.7 million Euros, “represents a significant injection of capital to develop research networking infrastructure across sub-Saharan Africa and with Europe,” according to an AfricaConnect statement.

African project partners will be expected to provide 20 percent of the funding, while the bulk of the funding will be contributed by the European Commission’s EuropeAid Co-operation Office.

Further information

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