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Europe supports African Square Kilometre Array bid

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have called on their colleagues to support radio astronomy partnerships between Europe and Africa.

A newly launched written declaration “Science Capacity Building in Africa: promoting European African radio astronomy partnerships” was signed by five MEPs from different political groups. It is open to signatures from other MEPs until 16 February.

The statement demonstrates the MEPs’ support to a bid by nine African countries (South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Mauritius, Madagascar, Namibia, Zambia, Botswana and Mozambique) to host the Square Kilometre Array, the world’s biggest radio telescope.

In the declaration, MEPs also urge the European Commission as well as national parliaments and governments to invest in research infrastructure in Africa—in particular using funding from the Framework Programme and the Development Cooperation Instrument.

The MEPs say that Africa has a “unique competitive advantage in the study of radio astronomy”, adding that “further European involvement in African radio astronomy can become a powerful driver of socioeconomic growth in Africa and create a new range of market opportunities for both continents”.

The African bid to host the SKA is competing against Australia. The SKA Organisation, a body of representatives from seven countries supporting the project, is expected to make a final decision on the telescope’s location in March.

The SKA is expected to cost €1.5 billion to build, and would consist of more than 3,000 antennas some 5,500 kilometres apart.