In November 2015, UbuntuNet Alliance CEO, Dr. Pascal Hoba, signed the AfricaConnect2 project contract for Cluster 1 during the UbuntuNet-Connect 2015 conference in Maputo, Mozambique.
Shortly after, Steve Cotter, CEO of GEANT signed two contracts for Clusters 2 and 3 of the same project for West & Central Africa and North Africa respectively.
Since then, a lot has happened to engage with and connect African research and education communities further, creating new opportunities for the continent and for global science.
Below is a round-up of the major highlights of happenings in all the three clusters of the €26.6m European Union co-funded pan-African project:
Cluster 1 – Eastern and Southern Africa (Coordinator: UbuntuNet Alliance)
A new 622 Mbps link between Kampala and Dar es Salaam, closing the ring between Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.
A 622 Mbps intercontinental link from Dar es Salaam to Amsterdam, doubling the capacity from the East coast of Africa to Europe.
Procurement for links to MAREN (Malawi), SomaliREN (Somalia) and SudREN (Sudan), including backbone upgrades are at an advanced stage.
Two regional training workshops for network engineers. 15 attended the Training of Trainers workshop in Entebbe, Uganda in November 2016, and 23 participated in the advanced routing workshop in Maputo, Mozambique in November 2016. Both workshops were held with technical support from the National Start-Up Resource Center (NSRC). 15 engineers also received the DevOps training for systems engineers in Entebbe.
An end user interaction workshop at IST-Africa 2016 in Durban, South Africa in April 2016.
Cluster 2 – West and Central Africa (Coordinator: GEANT, supported by WACREN)
WACREN has helped in the establishment 3 new NRENs that are now members of the West and Central African network: TchadREN in Chad, SLREN in Sierra Leone and GnREN in Guinea.
Several capacity building workshops have taken place in the region to prepare for the e-infrastructure developments and help raise awareness of the project.
WACREN has also recently held competitive dialogue meetings with a wide range of suppliers offering services on all available cable systems in the region. The outcome will be revealed early next year.
Cluster 3 – North Africa (Coordinator: GEANT, Supported by ASREN)
ARN, the Algerian Research Network, has upgraded its connection to Europe from 622Mbps to 2.5Gpbs to address the needs of its community and further support added-value services and applications.
ASREN has recently joined GEO, the Group on Earth Observations, and is assisting GEO’s African initiative AfriGEOSS, along with the other AfricaConnect2 partners, to leverage and co-ordinate earth observation activities in Africa to help tackle major global environmental challenges
Pan-Africa and beyond:
AfricaConnect2 partners have been active in engaging with the African and global community at various levels through IST-Africa 2016, the AfriGEOSS symposium, ICRI2016 and various other events and workshops.
In addition, 6 African countries have deployed eduroam, several NRENs have now enrolled in pilot programmes to offer the best possible internet services to their national members and facilitate research and education (R&E) collaboration across the continent, thus re-enforcing the value of R&E networks.