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FAIR in Axum: IN-Africa goes back to the roots of civilisation

Article written by Mirjam van Reisen, IN-Africa Coordinator

Axum, the cradle of civilisation, is located In Ethiopia, a country of 105 million people. Today its President Abija is acknowledged as the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019. In Axum, one of the earliest trading hubs known to mankind, IN Africa held its inaugural meeting. Universities’ leadership from the region was joined with delegates of other countries to discuss African needs regarding data science and the role of FAIR.

Africa is facing serious challenges that will not remain isolated to the continent. By 2050 the number of Africa’s youth will be double that of Europe and already today the continent is driven by its large proportion of youth, but also by severe youth unemployment. The architecture of the digital economy in the African continent is limited in capacity, especially taking into account the size of the continent. The soft architecture of the digital economy is also behind, especially looking at education and training in digital technologies. Yet, the continent is booming in aspiring entrepreneurial young people, creative and finding its own means of engaging with the digital world in inventive and original new ways. Youth are looking to embrace the new potential of services that will be enabled with the new data driven economy.

African Universities realise that Implementation of FAIR must be a key priority for them. They must be part of the connected world of international academia to be visible, publish their data and remain relevant. They provide the first tier capacity building, necessary for the education and capacity building of developers in the computer science and data science terrains. They are important actors in helping governments to make innovation work for the economy and to provide the tools to manage societal changes needed for this.

FAIR provides key data science tools. But FAIR also provides an intrinsic political architecture that allows African governments to engage with governance issues in an African way. This is necessary in the future data-led economy to ensure that data benefit and not undermine societal processes. FAIR in Axum represents the inauguration of the IN Africa; it also represents the contribution that the IN Africa intends to make to the world. A strong focus on development of a culturally relevant inclusive focus on how youth will contribute to society through the innovation of FAIR-based knowledge and services.