AfricaConnect 2 to enable pan-African Research and Education Network

14 December 2015

The AfricaConnect project was launched as an output of the 8th Africa-EU Strategic Partnership commencing with a feasibility study under FEAST in 2008 to provide an implementation roadmap.

AfricaConnect ran from 2011 to 2015 with a budget of €14.5 million based on 80% funding through DG DEVCO under European Development Funds and 20% of funds provided by African partners on a cost-sharing model. This funded the development of UbuntuNet as a high-capacity Internet network for academic and scientific collaboration across Southern and East Africa. Connections were put in place between National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) in DRC, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia with a connection to Europe through GÉANT, the pan-European network. Existing Points of Presence (PoPs) in London and Amsterdam were upgraded and new PoPs established in Dar es Salaam (TERNET), Kampala (RENU), Kigali (RwEdNet), Lusaka (ZAMREN), Maputo (MoRENet), Nairobi (KENET ) and Mtunzini and Cape Town (TENET).

As a result of these activities the cost of connectivity has fallen dramatically from €4000 per megabit per second per month to $135 per megabit per second per month.

As part of AfricaConnect a feasibility study was undertaken to assess extending a future programme to include interconnection with NRENs in West and Central Africa.

In May 2015 it was agreed that AfricaConnect 2 would consist of three clusters: focused on Southern and East Africa (UbuntuNet Alliance, Cluster 1, €10 million), Western and Central Africa (WACREN, Cluster 2 in coordination with GÉANT) and North Africa (ASREN, Cluster 3, in coordination with GÉANT) with funding of €26.6 million based on 80% cofunded by DG DEVCO.

In December 2015 the contract was signed by the Regional Research and Education Networks (UbuntuNet Alliance, WACREN and ASREN) for the coming three years. It will build on the success of the initial AfricaConnect project and aims to develop pan-African high-capacity internet networks connected to the European GÉANT network, to facilitate students, researchers and academics within Africa and between Africa and Europe. This will support the uptake of eLearning and cloud computing as well as support virtual collaboration sharing access to resources between institutions and countries.