Abu Ghazaleh: AfricaConnect3 project to extend pan-African high-speed internet connectivity and services for research and education

Brussels, Belgium - Following the success of previous projects ‘AfricaConnect’ and ‘AfricaConnect2’, Africa’s 3 regional Research and Education Networks (RENs) the Arab States Research and Education Network (ASREN), UbuntuNet Alliance, and West and Central African Research and Education Network (WACREN), in partnership with Europe’s leading collaboration on e-infrastructure and services GÉANT, have signed a new  €37.5m contract agreement with the European Union (EU) to extend their regional networks and to continue providing high-speed internet connectivity and services to National Research and Education Networks across Africa.

Signing of the contract agreement took place in Brussels, Belgium on 18th December 2019 at a ceremony presided over by EU officials and representatives from the four partners. Under AfricaConnect3, which will run for four years until 2023, the EU is contributing €30m towards the project budget with the three African regional RENs raising the remaining €7.5m.
The AfricaConnect3 project aims particularly to enhance human capital development in Africa through the advocacy of rapid increases in the use of digital technologies by African research and education institutions.
Building on the success of its previous projects, which brought dedicated high-speed internet connectivity to students and researchers and opened a gateway to international collaboration, AfricaConnect3 will specifically strive to ensure that:
  • Access to adequate and affordable-e-infrastructure for tertiary education and research institutions is improved.
  • Dedicated services and applications are developed for the benefit of education and research communities.
  • Adequate human resource capacity and expertise is built within education and research communities.
  • Raises awareness of the role of digital transformation for education and research.
Currently, 15 African countries deploy the global WiFi roaming service eduroam at universities and research institutions with a further five countries running pilots. From job creation to empowering women in STEM to the birth of African Open Science initiatives in support of data-intensive scientific international collaborations, the AfricaConnect project – in all its phases – contributes to the digital transformation in the African research and education community and, in turn, it fights brain drain and fosters development on the continent.
Domenico Rosa, Head of Unit Strategic Partnerships EU-AFRICA, CARIBBEAN and PACIFIC, EU-African Union - DG Development and International Cooperation-European Commission says: “The EC is delighted to partner with African RENs and GÉANT from Europe to leverage the great results from the previous two phases of the AfricaConnect Project to further push digital transformation for African research and education institutions.”
HE Dr. Talal Abu Ghazaleh, Chairman of ASREN said: “This is another concrete step that will help us to take the e-Infrastructures in Africa forward. We thank the EC for the support we have been receiving since 2005. We, at TAG.GLOBAL, are also committed to support ASREN and the developments of e-Infrastructures in Africa and the Arab region”.
GÉANT CEO, Erik Huizer sees AfricaConnect3 as an opportunity for wider collaboration: “GÉANT is delighted to be part of this project, and thankful to the European Commission for the grant. We look forward to continue working with our African partners. The European research and education community shows an increasing demand for communication and information sharing with their African peers. So, we see this project as not only improving access for Africa’s students and researchers, but really benefiting the global community. GÉANT’s long-standing and well-proven expertise in procurement will be integral to the success of this project.”
For UbuntuNet Alliance, CEO Eng. Dr. Matthews Mtumbuka believes AfricaConnect3 will accelerate research and education breakthroughs throughout Africa: “Without this funding, it would take decades to achieve the breakthroughs we see happening in the research and education arena across Africa by 2023. For this we as UbuntuNet Alliance in particular and Africa in general are infinitely grateful to the European Commission.”
Dr. Boubakar Barry, WACREN CEO Commented: “We at WACREN are very excited to see the launch of AfricaConnect3 thanks to funding from the European Commission. AfricaConnect2 allowed us to deploy the first phase of the WACREN backbone and to connect first countries in the region to the global research and education network. AfricaConnect3 will allow to connect more countries and to expand the backbone, providing to thousands and thousands of users in higher education and research institutions in West and Central unprecedented high speed connectivity and advanced services.”