Academic and scientific cooperation


Academic and scientific cooperation in Africa

Africa is currently seeing unprecedented population growth (current population of 1.3 billion and forecast population of 2.4 billion by 2050) and key societal changes. The growth of the major African economies has led to growing demand for people with appropriate training, in new economic sectors and at various qualification levels.

Supporting new forms of academic, scientific and research cooperation across Africa

Africa’s role in the global university landscape and the mobility of international students is increasing rapidly. The number of African students is soaring: from 9.1 million, their number should swell to 22 million in 2027. Their mobility rate is currently 4.5% – as against 2.4% on average globally.

France supports the development of high-quality education courses driven by economic demand, encourages scientific cooperation programmes and contributes to teacher training as well as the incorporation of digital technology into teaching practices.

Diversified regional and bilateral cooperation instruments

The development of partnerships between universities is mutually beneficial for French and African higher education institutions and for the mobility of students and teaching staff. In 2017, the President set the goal of doubling the number of partnerships between French and African institutions by 2022.

This has involved French cooperation services providing advice and supporting the development of dual diplomas. Various tools and terms have been put in place for cooperation with partner countries:

  • Support for more than 40 projects relating to higher education and research
  • Since 2019, these projects have been implemented via the Solidarity Fund for innovative projects, civil society, francophonie and human development (FSPI). They help structure the high-quality education courses available to satisfy the local labour market’s needs, and also help build the capacities of institutions and staff in higher education institutions in partner countries. The goal set in 2018 by the French Prime Minister to provide €5 million in seed funding was achieved.
  • Partnerships with African Higher Education (PEA) programme
  • This programme is funded via the Agence Française de Développement (AFD, French Development Agency) and implemented in liaison with French higher education establishments. In 2021, the first 7 projects were selected, totalling €20 million, with the aim of developing training in priority sectors for the sustainable development of African countries. The 2nd cycle of the programme began in January 2022.
  • Posting of academics and deployment of international technical to the ministries and universities of African countries, at their request. These resources help to bolster the national higher education systems in Africa, and they are deployed together with all partners concerned including French government agencies (Agence Française de Développement, Expertise France, France Éducation International, etc.).
  • Support for regional university hubs of excellence such as the Institut National Polytechnique Félix Houphouët-Boigny in Côte d’Ivoire and the 2iE school in Burkina Faso.
  • Promotion of higher education in France, in the 35 Campus France offices of our embassies in Africa, and gradual general roll-out of the Study in France procedure
=> France hosted some 370,000 foreign students in 2020, of whom 23% were from sub-Saharan Africa, and is the 6th most attractive country for students studying abroad and the leading non-English-speaking host country.
  • French government scholarships are allocated based on the geographical and strategic priorities of our external action and fields of training of interest to recipient countries. Around a quarter of foreign scholarship holders in France come from sub-Saharan Africa. France fosters two-way mobility, including through a pilot programme launched after the New Africa-France Summit in October 2021.

Focus on Franco-African campuses

The development of diploma programmes abroad is a mainstay of our institutions’ international policy.

Building on President Macron’s Ouagadougou speech, France is supporting these initiatives formed in partnership with African establishments to foster the exchange of expertise and the creation of innovative training programmes in synergy with local provision and focused on youth employability.
Since 2017, two emblematic projects on a regional scale have been launched in Africa:

France-Côte d’Ivoire Education Hub

This platform for exchange and coordination was launched in 2018 and includes training programmes leading to diplomas from establishments based in France and Côte d’Ivoire. The Hub currently offers almost 100 programmes (dual or co-diplomas, overseas diplomas) in sectors of importance for African economies.

Franco-Senegalese Campus

This Campus opened in 2019 and now has almost 700 students, in some 30 different programmes. The programmes offered, managed jointly by French and Senegalese higher education establishments, enable students to acquire skills in fields directly tied in with the world of work and sustainable development.
These university hubs enable African students to obtain dual diplomas awarded jointly by French and African establishments, while continuing to study in Africa. They also aim to receive more French students and develop international cooperation.

Vibrant scientific cooperation, centred on development research

With Kenya, Mauritius, South Africa and Sudan, France is financing programmes to launch or strengthen scientific exchanges.

These “Hubert Curien Partnerships” are supported by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation and by partner countries. Every year, these programmes select the best joint research projects by mutual agreement.

Numerous recognized French scientific organizations have satellites in Africa:

  • French Research Institute for Development (IRD)
  • French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD)
  • French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS)
  • French Agency for Research on AIDS and Viral Hepatitis (ANRS)
  • Paris Pasteur Institute.

They all have significant networks and long-standing partnerships with African research institutes.

These bodies help to:

  • Train young researchers, support their integration within international teams and promote South-South and North-South networking of teams;
  • Foster scientific excellence to support the development of research institutions;
  • Promote scientific expertise in partner countries to inform policy-making;
  • Strengthen our efforts to address challenges relating to global public goods.

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientific cooperation in health research has been stepped up. In 2020, France contributed €18 million to support COVID-19 research in Africa, making it the continent’s leading foreign contributor. The Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs funded a research programme on rapid tests in Africa via the Pasteur Institutes network (€2 million).

French mixed research institutes abroad (UMIFRE)

The Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs and the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) are coordinating 6 of these institutes in sub-Saharan Africa, in Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, Nigeria and Soudan, where there are two.

These institutes act as platforms for discussions and networking between researchers in archaeology and human and social sciences. Many scientific cooperation projects exist and they help to build capacities for research and create regional skill hubs. As key observers of contemporary changes in African societies, these institutes provide original perspectives in humanities. They are keen to play a central role in sharing scientific knowledge and develop tools to make it available to the general public.

These institutes develop various types of project:

  • In Ethiopia, scientific and heritage cooperation has intensified, with work on the Lalibela churches.
  • In Nigeria, the creation of an “East African Elections Observatory” has enabled observation of Tanzanian elections.
  • In South Africa, a documentary film on COVID-19 in the country, “What am I going to eat tomorrow?’ Informal workers during the Covid-19 Pandemic in Johannesburg” kept track of the daily life of several informal workers during the pandemic.

The EU’s African Research Initiative for Scientific Excellence (ARISE)

France played a leading role in setting up the ARISE, which is under the strategic leadership of the European Union and the African Union. The programme is promoted by the Research Institute for Development and was launched in December 2020 with initial EU funding of €25 million over 5 years. It supports science, technology and innovation as drivers of sustainable development and aims to support the emergence of African expertise in all scientific fields, enabling Africa to attract and keep the continent’s leading minds so as to decide and implement its own research and development agenda.

More on academic and scientific cooperation in Africa, following President Macron’s Ouagadougou speech

Updated: August 2022