MECS and the African Union Commission – EU Partnership

By Dr Jon Cloke, Addis Ababa 06.11.2019.

As part of its general outreach and despite the shadow of Brexit creeping ever closer, the UK MECS team was very gratified to receive an invitation to take part in the African Union – EU Science, Technology and Innovation event in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. This High-Level Policy Dialogue Stakeholder day involved a substantial number of energy-involved actors from across Africa and, given the inclusion of a poster display element which MECS took part in, held out the promise of being very useful indeed, for broadening and deepening the range of MECS contacts across the continent. It has to be said that some components, such as the sessions on AU/EU funding opportunities, were of lesser value directly, given the (supposed) imminent departure of the UK from the EU, but the sessions on collaborative research roadmaps gave a good picture of what was going on and in which countries, and in particular what kinds of MECS-relevant research might be out there. This in turn gave the MECS team attendee (yours truly) a chance to make contact after the session and hand out eCookBooks and MECS literature, as well as my card.

The Nelson Mandela Plenary Hall in the African Union Commission building.

It has to be said, though, that the range of AU-EU collaborative possibilities is substantial; The One Million by 2021 Initiative, the EU DG DEVCO Intra ACP research programme, the EU DG CNECT Digital Economy, the EDCTP2 Partnership, Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions by the EU DG EAC and the Horizon Europe and project clustering. It has to be hoped that continuing UK involvement in these important initiatives can be maintained in some form or another, because otherwise we will be really losing out.

Poster Displays in the African Union Commission building.

The afternoon session of the stakeholder day was probably the more interesting from a MECS (and a personal point-of-view). Out of the three sessions, Knowledge is the key/AU-EU Innovation Partnership, Food and Nutrition Security and Sustainable Agriculture (FNSSA) and clustering, and Climate Change and Sustainable Energy (CCSE), any one of these would have been of interest but I chose the Knowledge is the Key session, in particular because of my own networking and innovation interests and those of MECS. The session involved a great presentation on AU-EU activities in this area and a rigorous Q&A in which what knowledge and how implemented formed the centre-piece, not to mention the role of IT in helping African states to leap-frog forwards, off the back of existing AU-EU programmes. Is a techno-hub approach a practical way to go about this or does it require a more generalized, grassroots approach through education, HE and TVET systems. Or a mixture?

MECS poster next to NIWAAFA, the collective organisation of women farmers in Nigeria – note the shared interest in food and cooking!

The afternoon session closed with a summary of the discussions in each session and a set of  conclusions of the stakeholder meeting by the AUC and EU co-chairs, Dr Mahama Ouedraogo, AUC HRST Director and Fadila Boughanemi, EC DG RTD Deputy Head of Unit. The evening activities then began with the poster presentations, a chance for me to talk to all the other poster presenters and to begin to form collaborations…

Needless to say, the eCookbooks in particular were a great success and in tandem with the MECS info leaflet there was a good deal of interest overall in MECS, not least the forthcoming round of the MECS-TRIID innovation challenge. I met a range of different people with interests in different forms of stoves and fuels, and was introduced to a set of concentrated solar cookers being trialled in Nigeria which I can only hope will make an application for MECS-TRIID.