Africa: A New Horizon for African-European Research Links

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More than money

But FP7's most valuable benefits for African science cannot be expressed in numbers. "African researchers benefit not only from significant funding but also from collaborating with some of the best European researchers," Hogan says.

For example, Lateef Sanni and Wahabi Asiru are two food researchers from Nigeria. Along with other partners in their own country, as well as scientists from Ghana, the Netherlands, Portugal, Thailand, the United Kingdom and Vietnam, they are involved in a large project that aimed to reduce cassava and yam losses by improving their management after harvest. The Gratitude project received about €2.85 million from the EU over three years.

Sanni is a food technologist at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, and his colleague Asiru works at the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi, in Lagos. Both say that participating in the project broadened their scientific horizons, boosted their skills and enhanced the quality of their work.

"[The project] improved my knowledge as a researcher through workshops, conferences and training, and it encouraged cultural integration," Asiru says.

Thanks to the project, his lab acquired modern equipment that enabled agricultural waste products such as cassava peel and stalks to be used as an alternative substrate for mushroom production, he adds.

In addition, the project's benefits will extend to future generations: for example, Sanni's research group was able to use the funds to train 12 master's students and hire two PhD students during the project.

Not charity

However, boosting science capacity in Africa is merely a side effect of FP7's open, collaborative approach; the programme's main focus lies elsewhere.

"It's a European programme, not a collaboration programme with Africa," so it is logical that most funding goes to the EU, says Daan du Toit, senior science and technology representative for the South African Department of Science and Technology to the EU in Brussels, Belgium. "As much as we [South Africans] promote it and are enthusiastic about it, it's not a magic instrument for all."

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