CAAST-Net Plus Trains NCPs in Ghana
Representatives from 14 countries, including policymakers, researchers, academics and SME representatives, came together at Accra's M-Plaza hotel.
The event was organised with the support of the Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (STEPRI) and the Association of African Universities (AAU).
Partnership is Key
The session was officially opened by deputy environment minister, Dr Musheibu Mohammed-Alfa, and chaired by the director general of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Ghana, Dr Abdulai Baba Salifu.
Both acknowledged the importance of CAAST-Net Plus objectives and climate change-related research on the African continent, as well as the significance of the bi-regional partnership approach to finding solutions to global societal challenges.
Dr Salifu said that scientific institutions in Ghana “need support to deliver on their mandate” due to limited resources.
He added that programmes like CAAST-Net Plus enable researchers to access “tangible and intangible resources” through partnerships with European counterparts*.
After an opening statement by Stéphane Hogan, EU science counsellor to the African Union, presentations provided a review of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), including the successes of Ghanaian participants, as well as an overview of the upcoming Horizon 2020 funding programme and its focus areas for bi-regional research in agriculture and climate change.
Some of the emerging issues and concerns in relation to the presentations made at the session were:
- Unequal roles and responsibilities for African partners;
- How to link up with international partners and sustainability of Horizon 2020 funding;
- Challenges accounting for low level participation of some African countries and NCP selection criteria;
- Complexities associated with EU funding requirements and how to get around it;
- Challenges with multidisciplinary research funding under FP7;
- Limitations on the number of international partners for attraction of Horizon 2020 funding;
- Reliability of meteorological data in predicting climatic trends and effective dissemination of such information to smallholder farmers; and,
- How to ensure that proposals fit into national priority and development agenda.
In reaction to some of the concerns raised during discussions, it was explained that the complexities in proposal requirements are a tool for due diligence; hence, interested researchers should attempt to submit proposals despite the intricacies.
The number of partners is not a strict criterion as it depends on the project’s requirements and should be enough to get the work done well. Proposal writing is learnt and mastered by experience. Resources spent on the proposal writing should not be seen as waste when not won, but as useful experience for future proposal writing.
The day concluded with a training session for current or potential National Contact Points (NCPs). The new elements of Horizon 2020 were discussed, as were the roles and responsibilities of NCPs and the structure of an NCP system. The experiences and lessons learnt from the South African NCP system were also presented.
Presenters noted that NCPs can provide valuable knowledge and advice to prospective partners that will help them succeed in their proposals. The qualities and tasks of an NCP were also specified: NCPs must be proactive in sourcing information on available websites, enrich their networking and coordination skills, be ready to support all stakeholders who need information on EU funding instruments, and be highly professional and available.
Furthermore, the work of NCPs is nationally funded. It was emphasised that the structure of the NCP system is context-specific, but its role and tasks are the same, regardless of context. Experiences from South Africa deepened the understanding of how the NCP system works effectively.
Emerging issues and concerns in relation to the NCP systems were:
- Neutrality and independence of NCPs;
- Selection criteria for NCPs in South Africa;
- Issues about NCP nominations;
- Identification of partners in South Africa; and,
- Challenges of service delivery by NCPs and procedures for optimum performance of NCPs.
Reacting to the above concerns, it was explained that in the case of South Africa, suitable NCPs were nominated at the national level so professional performance was ensured and there were both NCPs and Assistant NCPs. From experience, the NCPs should be available, knowledgeable and training tools are available for continuous learning.
The importance of horizontal NCPs, the legal, financial and administrative frameworks have to be well developed for successful NCP operations. NCPs have to be centralised and focused on facilitating and disseminating information.
This content was produced by *Research Africa for CAAST-Net Plus. To report an error, write to email@example.com. To learn more about us, go to www.researchresearch.com/africa.
Disclaimer: CAAST-Net Plus is funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n0 311806. This document reflects only the authors’ views and the European Union cannot be held liable for any use that may be made of the information contained herein.