In 2020, EURAXESS Worldwide, as part of the wider EURAXESS initiative of the European Commission, had a presence in all continents in the world except in Africa. It was decided to do some preparatory work on establishing the EURAXESS Africa hub in early 2021.
Now that we’re approaching the end the year, it is time to look back on how it all went. Naturally, it was a year full of challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing us to use new ways of communication and collaboration as a result of mobility restrictions and lack of physical contacts.
Preparations were more complicated than we ever imagined. The first step was to become familiar with the academic community and ecosystem from country to country. A number of higher education and research institutions were identified, and an initial database of contacts was created using available information from the internet. This task was difficult in itself because many universities have a poor web presence or don’t publish names and contact information.
The Delegation of the European Union (EU) to the African Union (AU) and, in particular, Dr Piero Venturi provided valuable promotional support for this first phase. Dr Venturi involved EURAXESS Africa representatives in a series of events related to the Horizon Europe Launch taking place on 9, 12, 15 and 16 July, and later in Nigeria on 18 November 2021. Participating in these events gave us valuable coverage among a network of people interested in our services. It was a strong start which helped to raise awareness of our services.
Our activities in this period were focused on creating a network of like-minded individuals and publishing articles and information about the available funding and hosting opportunities, as well as on relevant EU policies. More than 100 news articles were published or signposted on our new website, and twice that figure on different social media platforms.
We quickly captured attention, which grew our list of subscribers to more than 1400. We are aware that this list will need to be better refined and expanded to reflect the interests and needs of Africa’s wider research community. Indeed, we are confident this will happen as word spreads after the official launch event scheduled in Spring 2022. African researchers will recognise the importance of the EURAXESS initiative and EURAXESS Africa for them, as was the case in other regional hubs.
In the meantime, we will continue to help researchers develop their careers and boost collaboration with colleagues around the world. We would love to hear your news or about important events in your institution, city and country which can help other researchers to improve their knowledge and skills. We welcome the chance to attend your events and present to your colleagues different EU-funding schemes and opportunities, and to discuss how to find a partner for collaboration.
Dalibor P. Drljača, PhD