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Visions for Science Capacity Building in Africa through Radio Astronomy

On March 6th and 7th, the African-European Radio Astronomy Platform (AERAP) discussed its vision for the future of radio astronomy cooperation between Africa and Europe in the framework of a major science conference in the European Parliament.

During a two-day workshop, scientists, engineers and industry representatives came together with European and African policy makers including several Members of the European Parliament. These events were part of the process to prepare the AERAP Framework Programme for Cooperation. The development of large scale radio astronomy facilities is a powerful driver of socio-economic development in Africa. It boosts the continent's human capital by training a new generation of highly qualified scientists and engineers, technicians and professionals. In addition to producing ground-breaking science, radio astronomy is driving innovation in several technological fields including ICT, advanced materials and renewable energy, both in Europe and Africa. The AERAP events included a dinner hosted in the European Parliament with Professor Phil Diamond, Director General of the SKA Organisation, as keynote speaker. At this dinner, Joe Costello TD, Irish Minister for Trade and Development, underlined the importance of science and technology as “a powerful catalyst for rapid development.” Referring to the Written Declaration 45/2011 on “Science Capacity building in Africa: promoting European-African radio astronomy partnerships”, Minister Costello repeated the call of the European Parliament to support the development of science capacity in Africa through radio astronomy. He highlighted the importance of contributions from national parliaments to this process. The AERAP Framework Programme for Cooperation builds on the outcomes of the successful AERAP events held in 2012 and defines objectives and key actions for the future of African-European radio astronomy cooperation. AERAP members presented their ideas for projects in seven thematic priorities such as research infrastructure investment, ICT and Big Data, renewable energy and human capital development. These project ideas include, for example, the development of precursor power plants to demonstrate the viability of solar power for radio astronomy or the training of school teachers who shall be enabled to link the excitement of astronomy to the existing science and mathematics curricula. Professor Thomas Auf der Heyde, Deputy Director-General of the South African Department for Science and Technology, was impressed by the variety of proposed actions and believes that “the AERAP Framework Programme for Cooperation can become an important reference instrument for African-European radio astronomy cooperation.” The African-European Radio Astronomy Platform (AERAP) is a response to the European Parliament’s Written Declaration 45/2011 on “Science Capacity building in Africa: promoting European-African radio astronomy partnerships” that has been adopted in March 2012. Fiona Hall MEP, who chaired the AERAP workshop on March 6th 2013, is confident that “the AERAP Framework Programme for Cooperation can be an important step towards the implementation of the Written Declaration’s objectives.” The AERAP Framework Programme for Cooperation will now be further developed through consultation of African and European experts. The objective is to present it to the European Parliament’s AERAP Group by May 2013. As foreseen by the Written Declaration 45/2011, the document will also be submitted as a contribution to the process of developing the future Africa-EU cooperation instruments forming part of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy. Further information on AERAP: www.aerap.org First draft of the AERAP Framework Programme for Cooperation is available here. For more information on AERAP Declan Kirrane ISC Intelligence in Science Email: declan.kirrane@iscintelligence.com Phone: +32 2 8888 109 Media inquiries Jessica Hadjis ISC Intelligence in Science Email: jessica.hadjis@iscintelligence.com Phone: +32 2 8888 110 Editor’s Notes The African-European Radio Astronomy Platform (AERAP) is a response to the calls of the European Parliament, through the adoption of the Written Declaration 45/2011, and of the Heads of State of the African Union, through their decision “Assembly/AU/Dec.407 CXVIII”, for radio astronomy to be a priority focus area for Africa—EU cooperation. AERAP is a new stakeholder forum of industry, academia and the public sector established to define and implement priorities for radio astronomy cooperation between Africa and Europe. The overall goals of the platform are to leverage radio astronomy, advance scientific discovery, improve knowledge transfer and stimulate competitiveness across both continents. The platform will also enable effective dialogue to build a shared vision for international cooperation in radio astronomy. Written Declaration 45/2011 “on Science Capacity Building in Africa: promoting European-African radio astronomy partnerships”, adopted in March 2012, was tabled by five Members of the European Parliament – Filip Kaczmarek (EPP), Miguel Angel Martínez Martínez (S&D), Teresa Riera Madurell (S&D), Fiona Hall (ALDE) and Judith Sargentini (GREENS). The goal of the Written Declaration 45/2011 is to harness the scientific and economic benefits of increasing science capacity in Africa. The declaration seeks to promote this through closer European-African partnerships in radio astronomy, as this is an area where Africa holds advantages that are not available in Europe and where there is considerable scope for further growth.

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