The African-European Radio Astronomy Platform (AERAP) will be celebrating its first anniversary at the end of May. AERAP is a response to the calls of the European Parliament, which 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”, called for radio astronomy to be a priority focus area for Africa-EU cooperation.A
ERAP provides a framework for stakeholders from the scientific community, industry and academia on both continents to initiate cooperation initiatives across the wide range of scientific disciplines and technological areas which are essential for the future of radio astronomy in both Africa and Europe.
At the recent Brussels conference, “EU Science: Global Challenges & Global Collaboration” (ES:GC2), held March 6 and 7, AERAP discussed its vision for the future of radio astronomy cooperation between Africa and Europe. In the framework of the 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. In his speech at the conference, Irish Minister of State for Trade and Development Joe Costello championed the contribution of science to development cited the EP’s Witten Declaration as an important milestone. These events were part of the process to prepare the AERAP Framework Programme for Cooperation.
The AERAP Framework Programme for Cooperation will now be further developed through consultation of African and European experts. The Framework Programme, which is to be presented to the European Parliament’s AERAP Group in May, describes AERAP’s vision for the future of African-European radio astronomy cooperation. This vision is shaped around eight thematic priorities: Research Infrastructures; Instrumentation, Research and Development; Support for Global Projects; Human Capital Development; ICT and Big Data; Renewable Energy for Radio Astronomy; Astronomy as a Tool for Science Education and Public Outreach. 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. In order to implement the key actions described in the AERAP Framework Programme (see link below), two Implementation Workshops are planned for June and October 2013.
Last month, South African Minister for Science and Technology, Derek Hanekom, was in Brussels for a series of strategic engagements with EU policy- and decision-makers. Minister Hanekom’s visit aimed at strengthening cooperation in science, technology and innovation between South Africa and the EU. During his visit, AERAP hosted a high-level dinner in honour of Minister Hanekom. The theme of the dinner was science capacity-building in Africa. Senior representatives of several European Commission services and European research funding organisations joined the Minister in an informal exploration of how Africa’s research and innovation capacities could be fostered through enhanced partnership with the European Union. These discussions specifically interrogated the role of cooperation in radio astronomy could play to advance science capacity-building in Africa.
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.