Press Release: African reseach and education networks sign €26.6m Internet project contract agreement with EU

 

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PRESS RELEASE

€26.6m Africa and EU internet project will transform African science and education

AfricaConnect2 to create first pan-African research and education network

 

Lilongwe/Cambridge, 8 December 2015:

African research and education network associations the UbuntuNet Alliance, ASREN and WACREN have partnered with their European counterpart GÉANT in a €26.6m EU co-funded project to provide dedicated high-speed internet all over Africa.

This follows the success of the AfricaConnect project which contributed to the creation of the UbuntuNet – the high-speed network for research and education in Eastern and Southern Africa – between 2011 and 2015.

AfricaConnect2 will develop high-capacity internet networks across the entire African continent and connect them to the European GÉANT network, allowing students, researchers and academics in Africa and beyond to collaborate. The connectivity boost will not only advance research and education locally with opportunities like e-learning and cloud computing, but it will equally benefit scientific studies the world over in areas such as climate change, biodiversity, food security, malaria and other infectious diseases.

Professor Jegede from the Department of Physics and Engineering Physics at the Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria explains: "In my area of research I need access to climate data as well as regional climate models (RCMs) to be able to study different climate scenarios and train students to be able to do so. The AfricaConnect2 project opens up new vista supporting collaborative research across Africa and beyond through timely access to scientific data using high-speed Internet connectivity provided by NRENs. I am very excited to be part of the cooperative whereby acquired data is made available to the global scientific community and for training of postgraduate students in Africa.’’

Accelerating scientific breakthroughs

A central part of the recently announced Africa-EU Partnership, AfricaConnect2 will fulfil both continents wish to connect research and education communities across borders and accelerate scientific breakthroughs. 

‘’Science, technology and innovation figure high on the African and European agenda as means to attain socio-economic development objectives,’’ says Françoise Moreau, Head of Unit at the EC Directorate-General for Development and Cooperation (DG DEVCO). That is the reason why under the Joint Africa-EU Strategy, both continents have decided to deepen their cooperation to promote knowledge-and skills based societies and economies. The EU therefore welcomes the start of AfricaConnect 2, which will build upon the successes of AfricaConnect in improving scientific knowledge and will further reinforce cooperation between research communities of the two continents, for the benefits of all.”

For Pascal Hoba, CEO of the UbuntuNet Alliance, the momentum is here to seize: ‘’Before AfricaConnect bandwidth prices in the region were typically more than 10 times the prices in more developed parts of the world. AfricaConnect has allowed countries once isolated like Zambia to be on the map of research networking and contribute actively. Now that we know that affordable connectivity is achievable we want to partner with our neighbours to pursue our shared vision of a connected and engaged pan-African research and education community.’’

A collaboration between four strong regional partners

AfricaConnect2 involves:

-          The UbuntuNet Alliance which operates the UbuntuNet network in Eastern and Southern Africa.

-          WACREN which is building a regional network in West and Central Africa.

-          ASREN which has been connecting Northern Africa following the Mediterranean EUMEDCONNECT project.

-          And European networking organisation GÉANT, which will strengthen and develop new connections with all pan-African networks, bringing R&E communities between the two continents together.  

All three African networking organisations will support local networks at different stages of development and improve regional and international connectivity, encouraging more institutions and countries to join in.

Supporting a network of people

Like its predecessor, AfricaConnect2 means much more than affordable high-capacity connectivity. AfricaConnect2 will also offer capacity building at a regional and continental level, supporting sustainable development and helping build a more inclusive Information Society across Africa.

Cathrin Stöver, Chief International Relations and Communications Officer at GÉANT, comments: ‘’Looking beyond the routers, switches and cables, the secret to a successful project is people. People as a close-knit community, with a pool of well-trained engineers who efficiently manage their networks and support their users to allow them to make a difference. AfricaConnect2’s ambition is to develop and nurture such a community spirit.’’

AfricaConnect2 is due to finish by the end of 2018. The EU development co-operation funds contribute up to €20m, with the beneficiary partners bringing in the remaining €6.6m.

About GÉANT

GÉANT is Europe’s leading collaboration on network and related infrastructure and services for the benefit of research and education, contributing to Europe's economic growth and competitiveness. The organisation develops, delivers and promotes advanced network and associated e-infrastructure services, and supports innovation and knowledge-sharing amongst its members, partners and the wider research and education networking community.
GÉANT has 41 member countries and is owned by its core NREN membership, and also has Associate members including commercial organisations and multi-national research infrastructures and projects.
GÉANT was formed on 7 October 2014, when TERENA and DANTE joined forces and adopted the GÉANT name from the GÉANT Project (co-funded by the European Commission and currently in phase GN4-1), which continues to be a major area of the organisation's work.  
GÉANT manages research and education (R&E) networking projects serving Europe, the Mediterranean, Africa, Central Asia and the Eastern Partnership countries. In addition, it supports R&E networking organisations in Latin America, the Caribbean and Asia-Pacific and coordinates Europe-China collaboration.

About UbuntuNet Alliance:

UbuntuNet Alliance is the regional Research and Education Networking organisation for Eastern and Southern Africa.  It was established in the latter half of 2005 by five established and emerging National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) in Eastern and Southern Africa; these are: MAREN (Malawi), MoRENet, (Mozambique), KENET (Kenya), RwEdNet (Rwanda) and TENET (South Africa).  The Alliance is incorporated as a not-for-profit association in the Netherlands, registered as a Trust and has its secretariat in Lilongwe, Malawi.
UbuntuNet Alliance is driven by a vision of securing affordable high bandwidth connections (gigabits speeds) that interconnect African National Research and Education Networks (NRENs), educators, researchers and students to enable them to effectively participate in global research and education activities.
The Alliance operates UbuntuNet, the data communications network that connects member NRENs in the region and connects them to other Regional Research and Education Networks (RRENs) worldwide and to the general internet. The UbuntuNet network now has a 10 Points of Presence (PoPs), two of which deliver transit from Europe (London, Amsterdam) and 8 PoPs within the regional backbone which covers 7 countries in the Alliance region. The Alliance now has 15 NREN Members.

About WACREN:

WACREN is the West and Central African Research and Education Network. The objectives of the organisation is the promotion and establishment of interconnections between national research and education networks in West and Central Africa to form a regional research and education network, the interconnection of this network with other regional and continental networks, and the provision of services aiming at fostering collaboration between research and education institutions in the region as well as between them and peer institutions at continental and international levels. To achieve its goal, WACREN works not only with educational and research institutions, but also with bodies such as regional economic communities (ECOWAS, ECCAS, UEMOA), telecommunications regulators (WATRA) and a number of national policy and decision-making institutions in West and Central Africa.  WACREN was constituted in 2010 and currently has 11 participating NRENs in the region.

About ASREN:

ASREN, the Arab States Research and Education Network, is a non-profit international organisation, registered in Germany, and operates under the umbrella of the League of Arab States. ASREN is the association of the Arab region National Research and Education Networks (NRENs), as well as their strategic partners that aim to implement, manage and extend sustainable Pan-Arab e-Infrastructures dedicated for the research and education communities and to boost scientific research and cooperation in member countries through the provision of world-class e-Infrastructures and e-services. The goal is to connect Arab institutions among themselves and to the globe through high-speed data-communications networks; boost pan-Arab collaborative research and education projects and activities; and contribute to promote scientific research, innovation and education across the Arab region.


Further press information:

Hastings Ndebvu

Communications Officer / UbuntuNet Alliance

hastings@ubuntunet.net

Tel: +265 999 029 434