The United States has signed scientific cooperation deals with Morocco and Libya, and seems keen to sign similar deals with other North African Arab states.
The Morocco-US science and technology cooperation plan, signed last week (14 November) in Rabat, Morocco, promotes the exchange of innovative scientific ideas, information and knowledge, skills and techniques and the training of technical experts.
It also allows for joint scientific and technological projects, conferences and workshops.
It was signed by Habib El Malki, Morocco's minister of education and scientific research, and the US Assistant Secretary for Oceans, Environment and Science, Claudia McMurray.
The Libyan-US science cooperation plan was also agreed last week when McMurray visited Libya on 11-13 November, and aims to boost a cooperation bond that the two countries established last July (see Libyan-US science cooperation plan announced).
The plan will cover public health, solar energy, water and seismic research, environmental protection, telemedicine, meteorology, as well as oil water separation and water desalination.
Proposals include setting out a strategy to map for developing renewable energy resources in Libya, and delivering a seismic station from the US Geological Survey, as well as US$1 million fund to enhance the country's preparedness for a possible bird flu pandemic.
More generally, the two countries will promote training programmes, joint research projects and exchanging of scientists, technical experts and students as well as scientific information and knowledge.
Although plans are still vague, plans are afoot for similar cooperation deals between the United States and other North African countries — particularly Algeria and Tunisia.
Ahmed Rabei, of the Centre of Biotechnology of Sfax, Tunisia, points out that Tunisia has a history of cooperation with the United States in many fields of science and technology.
"However, Tunisian-US cooperation has remained quite limited due to the absence of joint calls for collaborative projects. We hope that this will be possible in the near future," Rabei told SciDev.Net.
Abelkader Bekki, a biotechnologist at the university of Oran, Algeria, told SciDev.Net that his country would be keen on scientific cooperation with the US.