Refresh and reload: EU and Africa working together on research and innovation

This is the second paper on collaboration on research and innovation (R&I) between Europe and Africa. The first one looked at African perspectives on the topic and this second one focuses on the EU.

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    The next European Union (EU) leadership 2019–2024 will need to ‘refresh and reload’ how Africa features in its priorities. Collaboration on R&I offers a prime space for equal partnership that can contribute to sustainable development. But, in an unequal world, a narrative of equal partnerships can be counterproductive as much as assistance can set a patronising tone for relationships.

    Europe and Africa need to take many steps to escape from this. One such step for the EU could be to recognise African excellences and innovations alongside the numerous development challenges that persist on the continent. Regrettably, neither of these materialise to any degree of substance in Horizon Europe (the proposed next EU R&I framework programme) and R&I is left in a fragile space under EU development cooperation. Another major step would be to increase integrated EU action and work more closely with EU member states, which could help to address rising concerns of Europe losing ground in Africa. Programming of EU external financing and of Horizon Europe offer the chance to widen EU outreach beyond its comfort zone, encompassing a variety of relevant actors in the research and entrepreneurial communities in Africa.

    More equal partnerships will never materialise if Africa herself does not change. Possible steps include putting African resources on the table and a clear national and continental articulation of what R&I can do for African countries and the continent as a whole.

    The first paper of this two-part series on research and innovation can be found here.

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