26 March 2014
The science ministers, deputy ministers and representatives of the nine Square Kilometre Array (SKA) African Partner Countries, namely, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia, gathered in Pretoria on 26 March 2014 for the First Ministerial Meeting of the SKA African Partner Countries.
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The purpose of the meeting was to coordinate positions of mutual interest and agree on a process to finalise the SKA African Readiness Strategy and the Joint Implementation Action Plan. A process to achieve this by March 2015 has been agreed to by the partner countries today. The strategy is aimed at advancing radio astronomy programmes and building the requisite capacity in the respective countries for the African Very Long Baseline Interferometer (AVN) and SKA projects. The objectives are as follows:
The science ministers recognise and appreciate the positive progress being made on the following AVN and SKA projects:
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About the SKA
The SKA will be the world's largest and most sensitive radio telescope. The total collecting area will be approximately one square kilometre, giving 50 times the sensitivity and 10 000 times the survey speed of the best current-day telescopes. It will be built in Africa and Australia. Thousands of receptors will extend to distances of up to 3 000 km from the central regions. The SKA will address fundamental unanswered questions about our universe, including how the first stars and galaxies formed after the Big Bang, how dark energy is accelerating the expansion of the universe, the role of magnetism in the cosmos, the nature of gravity, and the search for life beyond Earth. The SKA Organisation, with its headquarters at Jodrell Bank Observatory, UK, was established in December 2011 as a not-for-profit company in order to formalise relationships between the international partners and centralise the leadership of the project
About the AVN
The AVN project aims to establish self-sufficient radio telescopes in Africa through the conversion of redundant telecommunications antennae into radio telescopes, "new-build" telescopes or training facilities with training telescopes. The AVN project is currently jointly funded to the tune of R141 million by the African Renaissance Fund of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation and the Department of Science and Technology in South Africa. It aims to –
AERAP is a stakeholder forum established in support of declarations made by the African Union Assembly and the European Parliament. The heads of state of the African Union Assembly issued declarations endorsing the SKA project at their meetings in both 2010 and 2012, expressing the African Union's unequivocal support for the development of radio astronomy programmes in Africa and for radio astronomy to be a priority focus area for Africa-European Union cooperation. The African Union declarations were reciprocated by the European Parliament through Written Declaration 45/2011, endorsed in 2012, to promote European-African radio astronomy partnerships through science capacity building in Africa.
Coordination is provided by ISC Intelligence in Science as one of the initiators of AERAP, together with the South African Mission to the EU.
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