Dialogue and international cooperation form the basis of a European Union (EU)-funded project that fosters new ideas, sharing of knowledge and working relationships for the benefit of both Europe and Africa.
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The CAAST-Net project contributed importantly to the creation of the environment for the development of science and technology cooperation between Europe and Africa, while coordinating efforts to help these partnerships flourish within the framework of the dedicated Joint Africa-EU Strategy.
“The project brought together researchers, politicians and policymakers from Europe and Africa around the table and encouraged exchange on a particular theme,” explains project coordinator Dr. Andrew Cherry of the Association of Commonwealth Universities in London. “They returned to their places of work, enriched in their knowledge, in their mutual trust and technical and cultural understanding, thanks to these periods of discussion with their equivalents from Africa or Europe,” he adds.
“The initial CAAST-Net project came to an end in 2012, but the work continued,” Dr. Cherry explains. Building on the results from the work already carried out, the project has evolved into CAAST-Net Plus, which adds key values by increasing bi-regional research and innovation with regards to food security, climate change and health, while maintaining the fundamental goals of its predecessor.
Many African governments have prioritised science and technology as key sectors of their national growth and development programmes, boosting economic competitiveness, encouraging growth and helping reduce poverty.
“From the African Union side you might say that an important, but not exclusive focus of the partnership is to support Africa’s development agenda. From the European side, you might say that there is a very important focus on European competitiveness, markets and so on. Both sides have a vision and CAAST-Net serves all visions. It is about common interests and mutual benefits,” Dr. Cherry says.
Both the initial and follow-up projects worked towards the objectives of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy, which was adopted in 2007, to address peace and security, human rights, trade, infrastructure integration, energy and more. Joint expert groups were set up to oversee eight thematic partnerships.
CAAST-Net identified ongoing and far-reaching research activities of mutual benefit, such as an event on biofuels and renewable energies held in Senegal in 2009 and another that same year focusing on non-communicable diseases, held in Cameroon.
“We fostered mutual awareness of policies and practices for international cooperation. It is about creating knowledge in a shared environment to enhance mutual interests. And the way in which we achieved that was through a variety of dialogue-based mechanisms,” Dr. Cherry explains.
CAAST-Net provided fertile ground for the sharing of knowledge and exchange of ideas to take place, facilitating success through networking, events, knowledge and information dissemination, on-line portals and web-based technology, boosting opportunities for dialogue and reciprocal benefits. “We essentially facilitated and animated discussions between the groups, which was an opportunity for all sides to express their opinions, interests, and discover mutual priorities and build trust among the participants,” Dr. Cherry says.
CAAST-Net contributed significantly to the goal of enhanced EU-Africa cooperation, helping both regions jointly identify solutions to challenges of regional and global importance.