First AfricaConnect3 connectivity milestone achieved: Tunisian R&E communities now connected to Europe and the rest of the world


The Arab States Research and Education Network (ASREN), the regional networking organization responsible for the delivery of the EU-funded AfricaConnect3 project in North Africa, and the Tunisian Computing Center al Khawarizmi (CCK) have signed an agreement whereby ASREN will provide a dedicated 1 Gbps circuit between CCK and the pan-European GÉANT network with the co-funding support of AfricaConnect3. AfricaConnect3 fosters the development of high-capacity internet networks for research and education across Africa and their interconnection to Europe and further afield.
CCK, the Tunisian partner in AfricaConnect3, manages the Tunisian National Research and Education Network (RNU) and provides internet connectivity, applications and services to the research and education (R&E) communities in Tunisia. 
Prof. Saoussen Krichen, General Director of CCK said: “We are very optimistic about this opportunity offered to our research and education community, especially in these difficult times of COVID-19. CCK will do the necessary steps with the support of ASREN to take advantage of this connectivity and set up a range of services available to the Tunisian R&E community.”
Having previously been a partner in the EUMEDCONNECT project since 2005, in 2015 Tunisia migrated along with other North African countries to the pan-African AfricaConnect2 project.  In the light of high costs for dedicated R&E capacity, Tunisia opted initially for a lower spec but more cost-effective technical solution to re-start dedicated international connectivity, involving setting up in 2018 a ‘virtual tunnel’ through the standard Internet to ASREN’s Point of Presence (PoP) in London where it then connects to GÉANT.
Following targeted supplier engagement efforts conducted by ASREN and CCK during the successor phase AfricaConnect3 in 2020, the Tunisian telecom operators offered more affordable tariffs to support the Tunisian research and education communities. As a result GÉANT, tasked with the overall coordination and procurement activities within the project, contracted a 1Gbps circuit from Tunis to London which entered service in May 2021. 
Erik Huizer, CEO at GÉANT: “We are delighted that Tunisia has yet again a firm place on the global R&E connectivity map. This achievement demonstrates the power of collaboration in our community to enable researchers and students in Tunisia to connect with their peers in Europe and other parts of the world. We are also pleased to see ASREN consolidating their role as unifying voice across the Arab region and building up their network management capabilities, including technical management for this circuit.  We expect this and future connectivity achievements in North Africa to facilitate research and education collaborations across both shores of the Mediterranean.”
Yousef Torman, Managing Director at ASREN said: “On behalf of ASREN, I would like to thank the European Union for their contributions in the context of AfricaConnect3 that have been so critical for this achievement. This brings us closer to achieving our long-term objective of establishing a pan-Arab regional backbone network under our ‘ArabConnect’ initiative. More work is still needed to establish convenient and cost-effective hub locations in the region for a regional backbone networks as well as to tackle the challenge of restricted markets in our region.”
Yousef concluded: “Our aim during AfricaConnect3 remains to secure affordable dedicated bandwidth for longer term capacity for all partners, though further regulatory and political support will be needed.”