Following the signing of the AfricaConnect2, Cluster 1 Contract between UbuntuNet Alliance and the European Union in November 2015, the West and Central African Research and Education Network (WACREN) and the Arab States Research and Education Network (ASREN) have also signed Cluster 2 and 3 contracts of the project signaling the official kick-off of the first pan African research and education network project.
The €26.6m European Union co-funded internet project has been split into three clusters with UbuntuNet Alliance in charge of connections for the Eastern and Southern African region while WACREN and ASREN will, with partnership with GEANT, coordinate connections for the western and central African region (Cluster 2) and North African region (Cluster 3) respectively.
AfricaConnect2 is expected to develop high-capacity internet networks across the entire African continent and connect them to the European GÉANT network, allowing students, researchers and academics in Africa and beyond to collaborate.
This follows the success of the AfricaConnect project which contributed to the creation of the UbuntuNet – the high-speed network for research and education in Eastern and Southern Africa – between 2011 and 2015.
The connectivity boost will not only advance research and education locally with opportunities like e-learning and cloud computing, but it will equally benefit scientific studies the world over in areas such as climate change, biodiversity, food security, malaria and other infectious diseases.
Commenting on the Project, UbuntuNet Alliance CEO Dr. Pascal Hoba said: ‘’Before AfricaConnect bandwidth prices in the region were typically more than 10 times the prices in more developed parts of the world. AfricaConnect has allowed countries once isolated like Zambia to be on the map of research networking and contribute actively. Now that we know that affordable connectivity is achievable we want to partner with our neighbours to pursue our shared vision of a connected and engaged pan-African research and education community.’’
In his words, WACREN CEO Boubakar Barry said: “AfricaConnect2 comes at a time when the demand for adequate bandwidth and network services from researchers, lecturers and students at West and Central African higher education and research institutions is extremely high. There is no doubt AfricaConnect2 will satisfy this demand and benefit the socio-economic landscape in the region.’’
The commencement of AfricaConnect2 has also excited African researchers who are expecting to benefit a lot from the networking project.
Professor Jegede from the Department of Physics and Engineering Physics at the Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria explains: ‘’In my area of research I need access to climate data as well as regional climate models (RCMs) to be able to study different climate scenarios and train students to be able to do so. The AfricaConnect2 project opens up new vista supporting collaborative research across Africa and beyond through timely access to scientific data using high-speed Internet connectivity provided by NRENs. I am very excited to be part of the cooperative whereby acquired data is made available to the global scientific community and for training of postgraduate students in Africa.’’
AfricaConnect2 is due to finish by the end of 2018. The EU development co-operation funds contribute up to €20m, with the beneficiary partners bringing in the remaining €6.6m.