Today, Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, and Sarah Agbor, the African Union (AU) Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology, hosted the first ever EU-AU research and innovation ministers' meeting. The discussion, taking place by videoconference, focused on research and innovation (R&I) activities addressing the human health impacts and the more far-reaching socio-economic effects of COVID-19.
Commissioner Gabriel said:
“Research and innovation plays an essential role in our cooperation with Africa. In view of creating a knowledge society and economy, we need to further scale up this existing academic and scientific cooperation. This has to take place through mobility schemes for our researchers and innovators as well as through vocational education and training. Enhancing skills development, particularly for women and youth, has also to be one of our priorities. By strengthening our R&I cooperation we provide concrete benefits for our people and societies.”
Commissioner Agbor said:
“Our partnership on science, technology and innovation is serving as a catalyst for both Africa and Europe to collectively address common challenges and at the same time impacting growth, and trade. Our African young population is benefiting from education, skills, and job creation and entrepreneurship programmes. With the current outbreak of COVID-19 globally and absence of cure or vaccine research and innovation rapidly find appropriate solutions for diagnosis, therapies, and development of the much needed vaccines. Our innovators are challenged to scale up the production of Personal Protective Equipment and Medical Supplies. We should also to go further and unlock the potential of local medicinal plants and traditional knowledge in order to provide a mix of responses to deal with such pandemics. This is possible through R&I leveraging our cooperation.”
Discussions covered four areas of cooperation:
- Public health, focusing on equitable access to new COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines, as well as on the role of the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP; €1.4 billion joint investment) in building the capacity of Sub-Saharan-African countries to conduct robust clinical trials.
- Green transition, on the importance of investing into a green and sustainable economy through R&I Partnerships such as the EU-Africa R&I Partnerships on Food and Nutrition Security and Sustainable Agriculture (FNSSA; €381 million joint investment) and the EU-Africa R&I Partnership on Climate Change and Sustainable Energy (CCSE; €84 million joint investment). In the framework of this latter partnership a working group was launched on 15 July with the task to explore future avenues of cooperation notably on green/renewable hydrogen, circular economy, energy efficiency in buildings, climate-environment-health nexus and climate.
- Innovation and technology, a more recent domain of cooperation between the two continents, highly relevant in the recovery phase. It features successful initiatives such as the pilot Africa-Europe Innovation Partnership, the EU-Africa Digital innovation hubs (showcasing digital solutions with links to the Digital Education action plan), and support to the African Research and Education networks infrastructure through programmes such as AfricaConnect.
- Capacities for science, on the role of: open science (open sharing and open access to scientific publications and FAIR – Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable – research data); active support to African scientific networks for enhanced science policy advising; gender equality (for and beyond COVID-19 related R&I); human capital development (including researchers’ mobility and training).
In 2010, during the 2nd Africa-EU Summit in Tripoli, the EU and the AU adopted the AU-EU High Level Policy Dialogue (HLPD) on Science, Technology and Innovation as an important element of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES). The dialogue serves as a platform for regular exchanges on research and innovation policy and aims to formulate and implement long-term priorities to strengthen Africa-Europe cooperation on science, technology and innovation. It is co-chaired by the European Union (European Commission, DG Research and Innovation) and the African Union (Member State holding the chair of the AU Specialised Technical Committee on Education, Science and Technology) and brings together the S&T representatives from the 27 EU Member States and the 55 AU Member States.
In March 2020, the European Commission published the Communication ‘Towards a comprehensive Strategy with Africa’ including a focus on stepped up cooperation in R&I with Africa. The global EU response to COVID-19 published in April also has a strong focus on R&I and Africa. Both are in line with the Green Deal priority of the Commission, which includes developing a green growth model, improving the business environment and investing in climate research and innovation.
16 July 2020