The agreement signed during the State Visit of the French President in 2008, has established legal frameworks for several existing partnership programmes between France and South Africa and embodies the eventual aim of integrating South African researchers into the European Research Space.
Franco-South African collaboration is driven by the following instruments :
1. Joint research programmes, co-funded by France and South Africa
The SAFe Think programme, was launched in 2010 with the view of strengthening the connections between South African academic institutes and their French counterparts, specifically in the fields of Human and Social Sciences. By assisting research partners in establishing sustainable cooperation, the French government aims at facilitating the integration of South African research and policy-oriented institutions into French, European and francophone African scientific networks.
SAFe Think is directed both at South African students and senior researchers:
i. The graduate programme seeks to fund exceptional students wishing to undertake a Master’s degree at a French University. The 2010 edition of the programme has allowed students from South African universities to study in France and obtain an internationally recognised Master’s degree. The bursaries cover tuition fees, living costs, a roundtrip airflight ticket, visa fees and full medical and social insurance.
ii. The research programme allows South African PhD students and researchers to undertake a joint research project of a duration of up to ten weeks in France. Through its fellowship scheme, the 2010 edition of the programme has allowed several South African senior researchers to conduct joint projects with French research institutes in a variety of disciplines.
Applications for these funding opportunities are made through our partner research and policy-oriented institutes. Selection is carried out by the French Embassy, together with the South African Think Tanks involved in the project.
Formal collaboration in scientific and technological research between the governments of France and South Africa date back to the signing of a bilateral agreement in 1994, giving rise to a joint research funding programme named PROTEA. Aimed at facilitating cooperation between South African and French scientists on joint research projects, the programme focuses on researcher exchanges, the hosting of joint scientific conferences and seminars as well as the exchange of publications. Funding is provided bi-annually on the basis of joint calls for research proposals issued by the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the South African Department of Science and Technology (DST) via its funding agency, the National Research Foundation, with these entities also responsible for the final selection of funding recipients. Since its inception in 1996, PROTEA has supported research conducted within the framework of nearly a hundred joint projects representing all scientific disciplines and a wide range of higher education- and research institutions both in South Africa and France, placing particular emphasis on the training of students and the development of human capital as part of its operation. In addition, PROTEA is currently set to acquire a trilateral aspect by encouraging increasing participation in joint projects by researchers from other Southern African countries, thus serving as a platform not only for international but also inter-African cooperation.
Launched in 2005, the Safe Water programme is more focused insofar as it concentrates specifically on projects related to water, with the aim of setting up perennial networks. Funded by the South African Department of Science and Technology through the Water Research Commission and the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs (MAEE), Safe Water finances a number of projects within the following predefined research themes: hydrometeorology, salinity, water quality and water management, involving participation from a range of research institutions including the IRD, the CNRS, CIRAD, the French Office for Geological and Mining Research (BRGM), as well as the universities of Pretoria, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.
This initiative was created with the specific aim of elevating the level of French-South African cooperation in the field of information and communications technology (ICT). Launched in 2006, SAFeTI seeks to establish links and strengthen high-level collaboration between research bodies, higher education institutions and companies in South Africa and France, to support the development of young scientists, to build capacity within historically disadvantaged institutions active in ICT research and to work towards an increased number of post-doctoral researchers in the ICT field. The programme funds joint research projects specifically within the themes of mobile-, wireless- and satellite networks, open source interactivity, software engineering and software architecture as well as human-computer interaction. Funding is provided by the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the DST via the Meraka Institute, a facility of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research devoted to ICT. Projects are funded for a period of three years and combine fundamental and applied research with a strong human capacity development component, favouring student training, while also encouraging collaboration with other African and European programmes.
2. IFAS Research, a Franco-South African social science research platform located in Johannesburg, concentrates on research in international migration, democratic transformation, intercultural relations and education, history and archaeology.
Established by the French MAEE in 1995, the French Institute in South Africa (IFAS) helps to realise France’s ambition of contributing to the construction of the new South Africa via the promotion of research in the Human- and Social Sciences. Formally under the direction of the French Embassy in South Africa, IFAS-Research seeks to serve as a catalyst for scientific exchange between French, European and Southern African researchers and organisations in order to promote the creation of research networks, to support joint research projects and activities between European and African researchers in the Human- and Social Sciences, to publish research findings in books and articles in both French and English and to contribute to the training of young researchers by integrating them into international research networks. Because IFAS-Research operates within the entire Southern African region it is also instrumental in creating inter-continental partnerships, while simultaneously supporting scientific engagement with the region by some 80 researchers every year coming from the most prestigious French and European institutions. During the past nine years of its operation, the Institute has been emphasising research into the reconstruction of space and identities in post-apartheid South Africa, as well as the observation of social and political change indicators in an interdisciplinary fashion. Projects currently being supported include research on memory constitution, post-apartheid urban space transformation, land redistribution in Southern Africa and linguistic challenges related to the development of African languages in the region, as well as on the role of ICT in relation to power structures.
3. Research cooperation in palaeontology and archaeology, partnering with South African scientists in the Cradle of Humankind and Diepkloof.
4. Access to frontier technology platforms
Capacitating South African researchers’ access to large facilities like the French Synchrotron Soleil, concomitantly building capacity by allowing researchers to familiarize themselves with cutting-edge technology that is not currently available in South Africa.