Lessons in Co-financing: Second Phase of ERAfrica Planned
Why was ERAfrica created?
ERAfrica was created in late 2009 by European and African countries, which wanted to consolidate and advance their bilateral relations in science, innovation and technology. The project is also one of many being implemented as part of the Africa-EU Joint Strategy adopted in 2007 to develop science in Africa, among other objectives.
This was the first time that African and European countries set up a joint funding pot. How easy was it to put the project together?
The entire process of jointly creating the necessary funding mechanisms and processes for the first ERAfrica call for proposals was a learning experience. Partners participated on an equal footing and this required us to constantly refine our interaction to meet all national and institutional demands and to ensure that all voices were heard and respected. In the end, we were able to create an exceptional working relationship to the point where numerous partners described the coalition as a group of friends or even a family.
What lessons can you share?
An equal partnership requires equal input from all parties and consensus through patient negotiation and mutual respect. Creating a joint fund can be a complex process as each country has its own rules and regulations but we were able to navigate them. This should encourage more engagements of the same nature.
What challenges did you face?
Aligning different national and institutional regulations was difficult. Different levels of experience and differing funding capacities required careful planning to accommodate everyone and to ensure that all participating agencies retained an equal say in how the final product turned out. The time was also shorter than we would have liked. The European Commission gave us seed funding and we were obligated to fulfil conditions of the grant agreement. This sometimes meant spending a lot of effort on tasks that were not necessarily vital to the project’s main objective.
Will there be a second call for proposals?
There is a great desire among ERAfrica partners to continue, and in particular for a second call to be funded as soon as possible. There are many preparations that need to be made for this ambition to be realised so we are careful not to set any firm deadlines. Nevertheless, the initiative has created an interim secretariat that is shared by the South African Department of Science and Technology and the southern African office of the French Institute for Research for Development. The secretariat will look into the creation of a second phase of ERAfrica.
We want to recruit more partners for the ERAfrica consortium, particularly from Africa before issuing a second call, if that becomes a reality. It is likely that future funding might include a mechanism to help consortia funded in the first phase to publish or commercialise their research.
*An earlier version of this article was published in the CAAST-Net Plus Magazine of December 2014 and on *Research Professional Africa (http://researchresearch.com/).
[Image credit: Europa.eu]
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