Following the successful completion of AfricaConnect, the finishing touches are currently being added to the Grant Agreement for its successor project. Conceived as a pan-African umbrella connectivity project, AfricaConnect2 will adopt a modular approach adjusted to the geographical, cultural and organisational context of the African regions and their different stages of NREN development, as well as their sources of funding. Consequently, AfricaConnect2 will comprise 3 geographical clusters and involve their respective regional networking organisations:
- Cluster 1: Southern and Eastern Africa (contracted between the EC and the UbuntuNet Alliance)
- Cluster 2: Western and Central Africa (coordinated by GÉANT in conjunction with WACREN)
- Cluster 3: North Africa (coordinated by GÉANT in conjunction with ASREN)
The project budget for AfricaConnect2 will amount to €26.6m of which €20m will be co-funded by the European Commission’s Directorate-General International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO).
Building on the achievements of AfricaConnect
The UbuntuNet network – the first of its kind in Africa – is the regional research and education Internet network in Eastern and Southern Africa. Through the procurement and deployment of high speed Internet connections across the region, between 2011 and 2014 AfricaConnect has significantly contributed to the UbuntuNet network. Thanks to its interconnection with GÉANT, it helped create a regional gateway for global research collaboration.
Implementing the UbuntuNet network meant establishing points of presence in major cities in the region and interconnecting them with broadband cross-border links. Historically, all intra-regional traffic had to travel via routers in London and Amsterdam – incurring delays and additional costs. Scientists, researchers and students in Sub-Saharan Africa are now connected directly, able to share data quickly and collaborate more efficiently. But AfricaConnect and the backbone it implemented mean much more than just improved connectivity and reduced bandwidth costs – looking beyond the routers, switches and fibre cables, the secret to a successful network and project is people. The UbuntuNet Alliance has created a close-knit community, with a pool of well-trained engineers who efficiently manage their networks and support their users across the region.
AfricaConnect2 sets out to extend this success story to the whole continent, thus accelerating the development of the Information Society in Africa. Whilst the connectivity boost will improve the lives of millions of Africans through accelerated research and education, it will equally benefit collaborative scientific research the world over, in areas such as climate change, biodiversity, crop research, malaria and other infectious diseases.
AfricaConnect2 is expected to commence in June 2015 and will have a duration of 3.5 years.