In the framework of the Africa-EU Strategic Partnership on Science, Information Society and Space, the '2012 Africa-EU Cooperation Forum on ICT' took place on 28-29 November 2012 in Lisbon, Portugal.
The Forum was dedicated to strengthening and supporting the cooperation on research in the area of ICT and ICT for Development (ICT4D) between Africa and Europe.
An event under the Africa-EU Strategic Partnership
The forum was the fifth of a series of successful conferences that have been held in the framework of the EuroAfrica-ICT Initiative (projects funded under the EU's R&D Framework Programme) since 2009 under the aegis of the European and the African Union Commissions (EC & AUC):
- 1: March 25-26, 2009 - Brussels, Belgium
- 2: February 4, 2010 - Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
- 3: December 7-8, 2010 - Helsinki, Finland
- 4: November 14-15, 2011 - Cape Town, South Africa
This year's event was funded by the EC under the Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7). It was hosted by the Portuguese Ministry of Education and Science and additionally supported by the National Science Foundation (FCT) of Portugal.
Moreover, the Forum in Lisbon was organised under the auspices of the Africa-EU Strategic Partnership within the broader Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES) [PDF]. This partnership aims at fostering cooperative scientific and technological research in order to bridge the scientific and digital gap on the African continent and to promote Africa's full participation in today's globalised knowledge society.
The Forum in spotlight: many high-level participants and constructive discussions
In total, there were 215 attendees from 45 European and African countries, comprising officials from the EC, the AUC and national governments in Europe and Africa, as well as internationally acknowledged e-Infrastructures experts. Overall, the event offered a major opportunity to promote dialogue, exchange and cooperation between the EU and Africa.
In an introductory plenary session on the first day, Zoran StanÄiÄ, the EC Deputy Director-General for Communications Networks, Content & Technology (DG Connect) held one of four opening remarks. He reflected on the progress of the Africa-EU partnership, pointed out the common challenges and mutual benefits for both Africa and Europe and stressed the key role of ICTs for economic growth in Africa.
The other guest speakers were Moctar Yedaly, the Head of the Information Society Division of AUC, Leonor Parreira, the Portuguese Secretary of State of Science of the Ministry of Education and Science as well as Pedro Cabrita Carneiro, Member of the Board of the FCT.
This opening was followed by the official launch of the AfricaConnect project implementation phase (co-funded by DG DEVCO), creating the UbuntuNet network. This high-speed Internet network connects scientists and academics throughout Southern and Eastern Africa to peers in the region and to Europe, the first network of its kind in Africa.
The final goal of the Ubuntunet network is to reach all developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa in order to facilitate collaborative research and to foster the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals in the region.
In a presentation session on 'The AU & EU Programmes and their Supporting Cooperation Frameworks-Priorities, Implementation Status and Remaining Challenges', Harry de Backer, former Minister Counsellor of the EU Delegation to the AU in Addis Ababa, presented recent developments and perspectives for EU-Africa cooperation on ICT.
A summarised report on the progress of the Joint Expert Group of the 8th Partnership programme was delivered, highlighting the priority areas of the current Second Action Plan (2011-13) [PDF] of the JAES that include Science and Technology, support for the information society as well as cooperation on Space applications and technologies.
The presentations were followed bya number of lively roundtable discussions, including a panel on 'Africaâ€EU Cooperation on Open Living Labs (local innovation & technology transfer): Taking Research Results to Local Innovation') and several informal networking breaks
The second day of the Forum opened with a plenary session dedicated to the Euro-African Joint ICT Research Priorities. Carlos Oliveira, Policy Officer in DG CONNECT, outlined the main features of the upcoming Horizon-2020 and in this context the perspectives for international cooperation on ICT Research and Innovation. He also referred to the opportunities for collaboration in the remaining calls for proposals under the current FP7-ICT Work Programme 2013, especially objective ICT-2013.10.3 International partnership building and support to dialogues with inter alia the ACP and Mediterranean countries.
The rest of the session tackled the Euro-Africa Joint ICT research priorities and newly launched EU-funded projects addressing EU-Africa cooperation on e-infrastructures (e.g. iMentors project and ei4africa EU/FP7 project). The session concluded with a fruitful discussion involving the audience on issues such as common challenges between Europe and Africa and the question of how to best expand broadband connections.
Several keynote speakers addressed topics such as innovation and capacity-building, followed by thematic sessions and panel discussions on wide-ranging issues such as 'e-learning' and 'e-Democracy', ICT for Development, Building & Strengthening capacities in ICT Research as well as Cyber Security & Trustworthy ICT.
The closing session highlighted in particular the following points:
The EU can be proud of a number of success stories with international collaboration projects, including with Africa. There is already significant African participation in FP7.
EC funding will continue to support international collaboration, but it will be increasingly strategic in nature, reinforcing cooperation with Member States and based on strategic roadmaps.
The Forum was key to boost EU-Africa collaboration, with relevant high level and technical sessions, fruitful discussions, and networking opportunities. The comprehensive scope of Forum's agenda was key to identify the different pieces of the puzzle and how they connect. This was enabled by the wide scope of experts from different sectors and fields.
Exciting launches of new initiatives show progress, but a lot more needs to be done.
As in the years before, the Forum was an excellent opportunity for concerned African and European stakeholders and experts to reinforce their contacts, to share information and knowledge, to build consensus on a coherent vision and to establish collaborative projects.
This two-day conference was preceded and followed by a series of side events at the same venue. On 26 and 27 November, several restricted meetings such as the African Regional Economic Communities (REC) Steering Community Meeting and the European Expert Group Meeting for Partnership 8 (EEG8) as well as an Open Workshop on Trustworthy ICT took place. On Friday 30 November, the week terminated with a meeting of the Africa-EU Implementation Group for Information Society (IG8/ICT), co-chaired by the African Union Commission and the European Commission.
Find out more about the 5th forum:
2012 Africa-EU Cooperation Forum on ICT: http://euroafrica-ict.org/2012-africa-eu-cooperation-forum-on-ict/
Event report: http://euroafrica-ict.org/files/2012/12/EuroAfrica-ICT_P8_Forum_Event_report.pdf
Attendee list: http://euroafrica-ict.org/2012/12/05/attendee-list/
Photo gallery: http://euroafrica-ict.org/2012/12/03/photo-gallery-2012-africa-eu-cooperation-forum-on-ict/
Information on past, present and upcoming forums: http://euroafrica-ict.org/events/cooperation-forums/