ANGOLA: New centre for sustainable development

Angola is to host the first African centre for sustainable development, which will provide earth science education and research opportunities for scientists in Sub-Saharan Africa through expert training and sharing cutting-edge knowledge between countries.

The Excellence Centre for Sciences Applied to Sustainability, CESSAF, will be hosted by the University of Agostinho Neto, which is based in Luanda.

Headed by Professor Joao Sebastiao Teta, the Angolan university will closely work on the project with the Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability (NIReS), based at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom.

The two universities, the Planet Earth Institute and the Angolan government will define the centre's academic strategy, according to the project proposal. The centre is also backed by UNESCO.

Angolan minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Maria Cândida Teixeira, presented the project this month in New York, during a meeting of the Planet Earth Institute at the 19th session of the UN's Commission for Sustainable Development.

She said CESSAF's special focus would be on problem areas for Africa such as water, energy, food, natural resources and urban affairs including sustainable transport and consumer goods. It would also be a hub for research into mitigating the impacts of natural disasters, and would foster scientific cooperation across Africa.

Professor Paul Younger, Director of NIReS, told University World News that his institute would work with Agostinho Neto University for 10 years to develop capacity among African experts. The two universities will sign a memorandum of understanding in July, which will mark the official start of the project.

The first phase, he said, aimed to develop highly-trained Angolan and African specialists who within five years could form a core of experts based permanently at the centre.

"We would want to run a project that largely mirrors the training that we run here," said Younger, whose university has more than 50 years experience in researching sustainability-related issues.

The two universities will begin a PhD candidates process once the proposal has been formally approved by the Angolan higher education ministry. Training will cover a wide range of areas including civil engineering and architecture, and will involve five to 10 postgraduate students a year.

"The idea is to have students spending two-thirds of their training in Africa and then spend a third with researchers in UK," Younger said.

In addition to training, CESSAF will hold international conferences and workshops, set up a central database of information on African earth sciences research, and promote networking and collaboration between research centres in Africa.

The Banco Espirito Santo Angola (BESA) is also partnering with CESSAF to promote training and research into earth sciences in Africa.

Leonor Sá Machado, BESA's Marketing and Communication Director, described the centre's creation as "a fundamental step for the future of Angola and for the definition of an effective strategy of environmental preservation and sustainable development."

Akadiri Yessoufou, a researcher at the University of Abomey-Calavi in Benin, told University World News that CESSAF would help make effective use of geological data to aid in environmental decision-making, as well as facilitating access to and the dissemination of data to the African research community.

Yessoufou called on CESSAF to help implement the strategy for Global Environmental Change Research in Africa, with a special focus on organising a network of earth scientists in Africa and connecting them to scientists around the world.