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[BRUSSELS] A new initiative aims to enhance scientific research and innovation partnerships between developed nations and Africa by linking research collaboration programmes with the private sector.

The 'Science With Africa' initiative seeks to raise awareness of the need for international research collaboration and facilitate cooperation between researchers, policy-makers and the private sector by creating new networks of communication.

The initiative's capacity to enhance cooperation between European Union (EU) member states and Africa was discussed last week (29 November) at a public hearing at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium.

Abdoulie Janneh, executive-secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa — a partner in the initiative — told the hearing that Africa would be able to take advantage of the great potential of science and technology only by "establishing strong linkages between technology-based industry, academia and government."

Thomas Spiller, director of public policy for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at the global software company SAS, told the hearing that the private sector is ready to invest in research in Africa. "Money is not an issue [in the private sector]," he said, adding that what businesses need is guidance from policy-makers on where to invest their money.

"[Science With Africa] should be supported, but it needs to be followed up by action plans," he added.

Andy Cherry, coordinator of CAAST-NET, a four-year initiative supporting science and technology collaboration between the EU and sub-Saharan Africa, told SciDev.Net that he welcomes any initiative that aims to facilitate cooperation between the EU and Africa. "I hope that Science With Africa will work with CAAST-NET, and other projects already implementing collaborative activities, in the future," he said.

Science with Africa will hold a conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, next year (3–7 March) to explore practical strategies for helping African institutions and businesses increase their participation in international partnerships.

Science With Africa was started last June and is run by Intelligence in Science, a public-relations company that links scientists, industry, the media and public policy.

The public hearing comes ahead of the European Union–Africa summit to be held in Lisbon, Portugal this week (8–9 December). The summit aims to endorse a new strategy and action plan of cooperation between the EU and Africa.

Of the eight collaborations proposed in the action plan, one will link issues concerned with science, communication of information, society and space; matters related to climate change and energy will form separate partnerships.