Speech by Ambassador Jan Sadek, 25 June (Virtual)
Launch of Pan African Planetary Space Science Network Launch
I am delighted to participate in today’s launch event of the Pan Africa Planetary Space Science Network programme which the European Union has financed with a budget of €1,4 million or 18 million Pula. The financing of this project is a recognition from our side of Botswana and its Universities, in leading this prestigious network of African and European Universities, in an extremely advanced area like space science. Let me therefore commend BIUST as hosting institution and Prof Franchi for having put this together and for spearheading the project.
I am sorry I cannot join you in person, but we need to be careful now that the pandemic levels are again rising. I am happy nevertheless that you offered me this opportunity to participate – if not through space so through cyberspace…
The European Union attaches great importance in the development of this type of collaboration and network-building between Europe and African Institutions, especially in the area of innovation and youth. I am sure that the programme will contribute to create a new generation of brilliant scientists in Africa, increase their employability, by projecting them towards the jobs of the future. I am hopeful that from this we can even see effects on Botswana’s economy and a push to the knowledge-based economy, which the country is aiming at.
In fact, and as recognised by the African Space Strategy recently adopted by the African Union, space science can have many applications which will be key for addressing Africa’s and global future challenges. I refer here for example to earth observation, satellite communication, navigation and positioning, etc which already have a bearing on all sectors of society and the economy.
I understand that the first Call for Applications for scholarships in the fields of Astronomy, Astrophysics, Space and Planetary Science, Planetary Geology and Remote Sensing has been already launched and that the project will be able to offer 7 PhD, 6 Masters and 5 Staff scholarships. This is really an incredible opportunity for students and researchers around Africa and I’m sure that you will receive a good turnout.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Pan Africa Planetary Space Science Network programme (PAPSSN) is financed under the Pan-Africa Intra-Africa Academic Mobility Scheme supported by the EU with €20M (for two years), which is aimed at skills development, at promoting academic mobility and facilitating exchanges of experience and best practices among universities in Africa.
While doing so, it is expected to support the harmonisation of programmes and curricula between participating institutions and the development of mechanisms for the recognition of credits, degrees and qualifications, thereby contributing to the realisation of the “African Higher Education and Research Space”. The recognition of qualifications and harmonisation of curricula are crucial for Africa’s regional and continental integration, to which I can testify from the experience of the EU.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Pan Africa Planetary Space Science Network, that we are launching today, is the first of its kind and represents for me a key milestone for EU-Botswana cooperation and for African integration. I really would like to see many more projects of this nature in the future.
The project is also a precursor of a new EU-Africa initiative which was agreed at the EU-AU Research and Innovation Ministerial Meeting which took place in July 2020. The “Horizon Europe” programme includes around 40 topics with a budget of €350 million for 2021-2022 under calls for proposals that are particularly relevant for cooperation with Africa. This reflects the joint priorities agreed at the EU-Africa Research and Innovation Ministerial meeting such as public health, green transition, innovation, digitalisation and technology. I am aware that team led by Dr Franchi has been included as partner under this program, and would like to congratulate also for this.
Since I am speaking at a university, let me finally make reference to another EU flagship programme – Erasmus+. After a boost in recent years, 53 of 54 African countries now participate in Erasmus+. We now have 35,000 incoming African students and staff and will now work towards 105,000 students 2027. Unfortunately, Botswana has benefitted only marginally from the scholarships schemes and we have therefore to work together to see how we can increase the uptake by raising awareness and by informing about the opportunities offered by the programme to students and academic staff. It should add that ERASMUS+ does not only provide funding for mobility schemes, but also for capacity building and exchanges.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me conclude by saying that:
This project may seem a small step for a scientist of the calibre of Dr. Franchi, but it is a giant leap for Botswana towards its journey to high-income status and the transition to a knowledge-economy. And it is a shooting star for the EU-Botswana partnership!
I hope that when the pandemic will be behind us, I will be able to come to Palapye to meet you in person and to see first-hand the incredible things that you are doing. Or why not meeting in the Makgadikgadi for a demonstration of space science in practice!
Thank You! Ke a leboga, Pula!