Department Of Science And Technology Grants, African countries have been urged to take advantage of existing science and technology funding models, such as the EU’s Horizon 2020 initiative, in order to achieve the continent’s development agenda.
Science, technology and innovation have been identified as critical for unlocking development on the African continent, which is battling a huge disease burden, food insecurity and climate site2016.
This week African and European research funders met at the ERAfrica closing conference in Pretoria to discuss various funding models, like Horizon 2020, the African Union research agenda, and the Developing African-European joint collaboration for science and technology (ERAfrica).
Their main task was to review the ERAfrica cooperationprogramme,aimed at fostering closer collaboration and funding of scientific and technological research between Europe and Africa. ERAfrica was established as a three-year funding project between Africa and Europe through calls for proposals in areas such as renewable energy, the interface between societal challenges, and ideas-driven research in any field.
The partners had committed €10,8 million to support cooperation between African and European researchers responding to the call, and have invested €8,29 million in 17 successful projects. The Department of Science and Technology (DST) has committed over €1 million to fund South African researchers participating in ERAfrica projects. South African researchers are participating in 13 of the successful proposals.
Funding partners include Austria, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Kenya, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Switzerland and Turkey.
Speaking at the conference, Mr Stéphane Hogan, European Union (EU) Minister-Counsellor for Research and Innovation, said there were few initiatives in Africa that could take advantage of the ERAfrica model.
“The EU is willing to commit to further funding to ERAfrica. However, it has to be sustainable and we would like to see the extension of the current model – as a streamlined process to enable rapid implementation of specific calls,” said Mr Hogan.
The EU considers ERAfrica a success, and a promising model which could enhance cooperation between Africa and Europe, address specific challenges and increase ownership.
“This is a model with a strategic focus. It can work and promotes EU-Africa collaboration as well as collaboration among African countries. It has the potential to reduce dependency on international donors,” said Mr Hogan.
He emphasised that ERAfrica needed to be sustainable and flexible, foster further development and be streamlined with other development projects on the continent.
DST Deputy Director-General for International Cooperation and Resources, Daan du Toit, said ERAfrica was a good example of how Africa and Europe could join forces to put science and technology at work to fight hunger, disease, poverty and inequality.
“For the first time we have a joint research programme between the two continents that has been truly co-designed and co-funded by both partners, as equals. The thematic focus of the projects funded on societal challenges is also important to highlight.”
Mr Du Toit said the DST was committed to ensuring that the momentum achieved by ERAfrica was not lost and that the Department was looking forward to implementing a second phase of the programme, learning from the experience of the first phase and showing even greater ambition.