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University groups announce three new Europe-Africa ‘clusters’

Image: UNU-WIDER [CC BY-NC 2.0], via Flickr


Additional research networks will aim to transform collaboration between the two continents

African and European university groups have announced three new research networks aiming to transform the nature of collaboration between the continents.

In June, the African Research Universities Alliance and the Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities teamed up to launch 17 collaborative research ‘clusters’ to address the “inequity that has characterised research in relation to Africa”.

On 25 September, Arua and the Guild revealed that they had added the three networks and that there are now 20 Africa-Europe Clusters of Research Excellence. They will try to pioneer a new approach to collaboration by making equity a “precondition” of producing research, inclusive of African and European researchers and committed to societal transformation.

“At this particular time, when European discourse about Africa is increasingly dominated again by migration and crisis, it is more critical than ever to show how Europeans and Africans can only progress by addressing our common challenges together, in real partnership.

“This is what all three clusters do,” said Jan Palmowski, the Guild’s lead on the Africa-Europe Clusters of Research Excellence.

Each of the clusters addresses a particular societal challenge, with the focus of the new ones being:

  • Supporting the development of more equitable, innovative and sustainable creative economies.
  • Establishing a teaching and research ecosystem to train future engineers.
  • The politics of sustainable development, which will involve researchers from the social sciences and humanities, as well as the natural sciences and law.

Arua general secretary Ernest Aryeetey (pictured) said the new clusters were “a good indication of the ambition of [the initiative] to present a more diversified portfolio of academic disciplines”.

“They bring in more of the social sciences and humanities, and provide an opportunity for greater interdisciplinarity in the work of our institutions,” he added.

The two groups said they were launching the clusters as a “direct response” to the formal launch in July of the AU-EU Innovation Agenda, which is part of the wider EU-Africa Global Gateway Investment Package to support Africa in undertaking an inclusive, green and digital transformation.