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AERAP Science at the EU-Africa Summit , 14-18 February 2022

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Science at EU-Africa Summit: 14-18 February 2022.

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AU-EU Summit 17-18 February 2022: A Science Agenda

The AERAP Africa-Europe Science Collaboration Platform will organise side events at the AU-EU Summit on 14-17 February. The purpose of the meeting will be to promote awareness of the contribution of collaborative research and development as a critical aspect of EU-Africa relations and collaborations, in particular in addressing global challenges together.

Over the past decade, Africa's economic achievement created a new vibrancy on the continent, among the world's most rapidly growing economic regions - before the pandemic affecting economies globally. While momentum is widely recognised, longer-term growth depends on sustained investment in an innovative workforce to advance a knowledge economy. Investments in science and technology are attributed to more than half of the gains in gross national product among high-income countries and up to 85% of the gains in per capita income over the past several decades.

African nations are starting from a modest baseline in realising these potentials, representing 15% of the globe's population and 5% of its gross domestic product (GDP), yet just 1.3% of global investment in research and development (R&D). The scientific workforce deficits are acute: the continent possesses 198 researchers per million inhabitants (by comparison: Chile: 428; UK: 4000). Enrollment rates in tertiary education are low, 7.1%, compared to the global average of 25.1%. African countries spend well less than the agreed African Union (AU) target to reach R&D investment of 1% of GDP.

However, there are compelling grounds for optimism as public and private sectors ramp up scientific investment in the coming years. Scientific innovation in Africa is on the rise, and momentum is building for new measures to strengthen and sustain the capacity of African universities and research institutions to become an effective force for economic growth and develop local solutions to development challenges. The STISA-2024, Agenda 2063, and the SDGs compacts all point to a commitment for action. Catalysing sustainable and effective change, however, calls for a unified vision of collaboration and development. The prime driver will be African governments investing in their future.

The timing truly is opportune. A new generation of African political leaders is technically trained. New private sector investments are fueling substantive R&D projects in Africa. Moreover, by 2034 the continent will possess the world's largest working-age population (1.1b), larger than that of either India or China – a potent "demographic dividend" and valued asset in an ageing world. An expanding working-age population is associated with strong rates of GDP growth. However, the challenge will be to ensure that its economies create enough skilled jobs for the many millions entering the workforce

The general topics for the Summit side event will include:

1. The Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument, NDICI, also known as Global Europe, can reflect the enormous potential of collaborative and inclusive science to address key policy objectives, including digital transition and the Green Deal. The Communication from the Commission on the Global Approach to Research and Innovation is a key paper: the Communication is intended to ....serve as a guide in implementing the international dimension of the new EU programme for civil research and innovation, Horizon Europe, and its synergies with other EU programmes, in particular the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument - Global Europe.

2. How to accelerate an inclusive approach to collaborative research, recognising Africa leadership and the untapped potential of women and girls to contribute to science and innovation. This needs to start with a more cohesive and inclusive approach to policymaking and regulations impacting Africa and research collaborations with Africa.

3. Consider how to leverage synergies between funding mechanisms led by the EU and others including development finance provided by the African Development Bank, the European Investment Bank, the World Bank and others. Moreover, development finance can do much more to support science in Africa including global collaborations to support Africa-led global research.

4. Raise awareness of the unforeseen and unintended impact of regulations on potential research collaborations with Africa. These include data privacy, the EU General Data Protection Regulation, the In-vitro Diagnostics Regulation (IVDR), the Medical Devices Regulation (MDR) and the Clinical Trials Regulation. Good regulation cannot act as a barrier between African and EU and other researchers. African nations need to build their enabling regulatory environment and regulatory compliance with the EU. There is also an urgent need to create an enabling environment for trust-based relationships for scientific cooperation.

5. Indigenous knowledge can as a force for good and part of the equation when promoting Africa-Europe science collaboration, including developing relevant information services and linking indigenous knowledge to data capacities; patent data. WTO TRIPS Art. 66.2 is critical also in this regard: Developed country Members shall provide incentives to enterprises and institutions in their territories for the purpose of promoting and encouraging technology transfer to least-developed country Members in order to enable them to create a sound and viable technological base

6. The meeting will also consider the importance of the SDGs in this context, including enabling local and community (UN Local 2030) science as part of the global response.

Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Member States of the African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU) met in Kigali, Rwanda, on 26 October 2021, took stock of progress regarding the priority areas adopted during the last AU–EU Summit held in 2017, in Abidjan. The Communique provides some guidance on priorities for the AU-EU Summit on 17-18 Feb 2022.

The draft programme is available here.

AERAP responds to the European Parliament Written Declaration 45 on Science Capacity Building in Africa. This call was repeated by the Heads of State of the African Union through their Decision Assembly/AU/Dec.407 CXVIII. AERAP encourages policymakers to understand the need for an enabling policy and regulatory environment for science cooperation with Africa and championing leadership in Africa and Europe to demonstrate science’s contribution to society and address shared global challenges.

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