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TransAfrican Network Development

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - TANDEM (TransAfrican Network Development)

Reporting period: 2016-05-01 to 2017-04-30

The scope of Tandem project is to promote cooperation by exploiting the interconnection between the European research and educational network (GÉANT) and the established African regional networks. The objective is to allow them to use these technologies, have access to global research resources and thus contribute with their peers around the world to the global knowledge economy and to the socio-economic development of the Western and Central and Africa. Tandem has the goal of empowering African universities, research institutes and organisations with access to scientific knowledge. TANDEM is focused on three key research thematic topics: health, food security and environment, three of the major issues that Africa is facing today. Besides, with the data deluge in the scientific field, the development of a an educational network (NREN) has a major role to play.
TANDEM project aims to support dialogue between the EU and African Research and Educational Networks, with special attention to Research & Education networks in Western and Central Africa region (WACREN). The scope is to promote cooperation by exploiting the interconnection between the European research and educational network (GÉANT) and the established African regional networks.

Building upon the experience of projects carried out in countries with comparable framework conditions, such as Southern and Eastern Africa regions where TANDEM partners as GéANT and UBUNTUNET already collaborate, the TANDEM project developped a comprehensive strategy to enhance the potential of WACREN.

This strategy aims to create favourable conditions for WACREN to be able to participate in and benefit to the most from the AfricaConnect2 project.

AfricaConnect is a european project which supports the development, consolidation and use of high-capacity national and regional research and education networks (NRENs) across Africa and set up connections to the pan-European GÉANT network.

AfricaConnect1 (2011-2015) focused on the UBUNTUNET region. AfricaConnect2 (2015-2018) will consolidate the connectivity in UBUNTUNET region and extend to WACREN.

AfricaConnect2 (AC2) will focus on the procurement and technical implementation of the connectivity between WACREN and GEANT.

To enhance the potential of WACREN, TANDEM takes into account the experience of the African partner UBUNTUNET , and will support WACREN at two levels: at governance level, and at End User level. With the term “End Users”, we refer to Researchers and Academic Users of NREN services (connectivity, data sharing repositories, cloud services…). They will be approached on behalf of the NRENs in West and Central Africa, under the WACREN umbrella. WACREN itself does not want to be in direct contact with the End Users mentioned above. These End Users are at national level and as such it is the responsibility of the NRENs themselves to maintain a relationship with them. However, it is important for WACREN to ensure that End Users are aware about WACREN and NREN services to come, and to be able to listen about their needs.

To clearly understand the relationship between TANDEM and AC2, TANDEM can be illustrated as a « sandwich » project with:
• TANDEM at the top focusing on relationships with policy makers, regulators, donors, telecom operators (governance),
• AC2 securing the bandwidth in the middle,
• And TANDEM at the bottom focusing on relationships with the End Users.

According to the GEANT Compendium dated from 2015 , there are no NREN known to be operational in the WACREN area (West and Central Africa).

It is then a big challenge for WACREN to interconnect NRENs in the region, and to be fully part of AC2 project.

Considering the “as-is” situation, it is important to keep in mind that it will take a long time to get to certain point of evolution, and that this time is certainly longer than the duration of the 2-year TANDEM project.
TANDEM project focuses on the regional WACREN. Although ""national"" contributions in terms of achievement contribute to the overall goal of the project, the focus is regional. It is not in the scope of TANDEM to commit to a granularity that goes up to the national level in terms of outputs.

The expected WACREN “to-be” situation at the end of the project is to be:
1. fully part of AC2 by respecting the co-funding model, which means that WACREN needs to raise the 20% African partners’ contribution
2. in a situation to build on AC2 connectivity with a roadmap for implementation of a strategic service portfolio
3. organised at regional level in order to reach easily the End Users and be able to engage a dialog with some communities (researchers…)

Deriving from the global objective and the expected “to-be” situation, TANDEM project addressed specific objectives on governance (political and financial support, roadmap) and on the relationships with End Users (raising awareness, gathering their needs, initiating communities):

1) Obtain political and financial support to WACREN for the network implementation in view of the AC2 project

2) Raise End User’s awareness

3) Gather End User requirements

4) Identify technical recommendations for implementing a WACREN service portfolio

5) Establish a NREN community– Develop and strengthen the NRENs
To get structured in a sustainable way, WACREN needs to support the reinforcement of the NRENs so that they are organised to communicate efficiently with the End Users.

So that WACREN could benefit to the most of the AC2, TANDEM ensure coherency between the two projects.

TANDEM consortium succeed in being on track all along the project.
The milestones were all respected (or not late with more than one month) and all tasks could have been performed in time.
All deliverables were submitted.

TANDEM will be able to produce the following impacts:

• Increased influence on political orientation and choices, directing the strategic political decisions on national and international funds and guiding the strategic direction and investments of the Research Institutes towards the strengthening of e-infrastructures
• Additional resources / funding mobilised from public funding programmes and projects and private donors to support WACREN activities and the co-financing of the second phase of AfricaConnect project
• A permanent dialogue at the policy maker and donor level through the creation and establishment, starting with PODWAG, of a community that will survive well beyond the end of the project.
• A greater awareness and involvement of local University and Research Institutes’ leaders on the development of services tailored to their interests, especially with regard to strategic subjects such as health, food security and the environment
• An increased North-South dialogue stimulating research emulation thanks to the active and direct cooperation, within the TANDEM partnership, between RRENs