The countries of the sub-Saharan region are becoming more and more important for European policy and also for Austria. Funding programmes are massively increased to strengthen intercontinental cooperation .
While in the last programme period of Erasmus+ (2014-2020) around 7% of the budget from external funds was reserved for sub-Saharan Africa up to 23% of international funds will be available for this region in the new phase that runs until 2027. Demand had already far exceeded the available funds before as the political focus turned increasingly towards Africa. Additional special funding for higher education cooperation was provided in the past three years, such as the Horn of Africa and West Africa windows. In 2018 the then Commission President Juncker announced that cooperation with Africa would be decisively expanded in the years to come. The aim is to increase annual mobility between Europe and Africa from around 16,000 to 105,000 by 2027.
This prioritisation will now have an impact on the distribution of funds in the new programme period of Erasmus+. Most of the international measures of Erasmus+ will start in 2022 and the measures will be financed by external funds (‘Heading 6’). Around 87% of the 2.2 thousand million euros planned for this purpose are reserved for higher education. In the area of international higher education mobility of Erasmus+ (KA171) sub-Saharan Africa is the most highly funded region with half a thousand million euros – around a quarter of all funds.
In addition to Erasmus+ mobility the European Commission will also provide special support for capacity building in higher education. 160 million euros will be reserved for sub-Saharan countries. In the past six years there have already been four projects involving Austrian and sub-Saharan higher education institutions.
Another funding scheme is Erasmus Mundus. Here, higher education institutions from Africa cannot only participate in the consortium on an equal footing under the new Erasmus+ programme but also assume the coordination of an Erasmus+ master's degree course. Students from the region can apply for a full-time scholarship – just like students from all over the world.
In addition to European Union programmes Austria invests specifically in cooperation with African countries. The Austrian Development Cooperation (OEZA) has already funded 27 “Academic Partnership” and “Advanced Academic Partnership” projects in the sub-Saharan region with a total of 8.7 million euros within APPEAR (Austrian Partnership Programme in Higher Education and Research for Development). Further funding for the calls until 2024 has been secured.
Together with the Austrian Ministry of Education and Science and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna the OeAD launched the Austrian-African Research Network (Africa-UniNet) in 2020. 20 international research projects with African higher education institutions are currently carried out within this network.