Capacity for VLBI in Africa
JUMPING JIVE worked toward the establishment of an operational African VLBI Network (AVN) and critically developing skills growth within the hosting countries of this future array. The project - along with the UK and South African ‘Development of Radio Astronomy in Africa’ (DARA) programme - made a tangible contribution to the up-skilling and STEM training of more than 250 young students in 7 African countries (Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Zambia, Botswana, Mozambique and Madagascar). To provide more advanced training and experience opportunities for early-career astronomers, JUMPING JIVE facilitated 9 training placements for African students and staff members hosted at EU institutes as well as as Expert assistance in developing a sustained communication network of experts in African institutes.
JUMPING JIVE - along with the UK and South African Development of Radio Astronomy in Africa (DARA) programme - contributed to basic training programme for a total of over 250 young students in 7 African countries (Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Zambia, Botswana, Mozambique and Madagascar). The programme comprising training in astronomy, computing and technical skills organised face-to-face activities in 2017, 2018 and 2019 and an hybrid format (or fully remote) in 2021 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Beyond this, JUMPING JIVE provided more advanced training and experience opportunities for young astronomers, facilitating training placements for African students and staff members hosted at EU institutes. The individuals supported as part of this unique scheme have benefited in a variety of ways with the majority transferring the training, skills and knowledge obtained to colleagues and institutes in Africa. Find below some success stories:
Dr. Asabere (Ghana) from the Ghanaian Radio Astronomy Observatory - one of the first beneficiaries support to attend the inaugural ASTRON/JIVE traineeship programme - lead the development, commissioning and operations of the converted 32-m in Ghana that, with the assistance of JUMPING JIVE, became the first African radio telescope, outside of South Africa, to link with and gain fringes with the EVN.
Dr. Kimani (Kenya) from the Kenyatte University in Nairobi visited MPIfR in Bonn (Germany) to work on VLBI data that served to to extend the science development of his group.
Mr Lott Frans (Namibia) visited INAF (Italy) and ASTRON (the Netherlands) whilst he was on secondment at the Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur (France). This visit helped Mr Frans to develop connections with leading EU institutes to further develop astronomy in Namibia, including VLBI and EHT.
A Kenyan graduate student spent a week training at JIVE and attended the European Radio Interferometry School in 2019. He shared his experiences with his fellow students back in Nairobi. Currently, he has successfully secured a fully funded MSc research position in the EU.
An Egyptian graduate student also attended the European Radio Interferometry School in 2019. This student gained considerable additional experience from this opportunity he has subsequently developed new collaborations with EU partners in the UK and Spain. Subsequently, he initiated a programme to complete an RFI site survey in Egypt as the first step toward a new build or converted Radio telescope for VLBI.
Expert assistance in developing a sustained communication network of experts in African institutes
JUMPING JIVE aimed to increase awareness of opportunities in physics and astronomy (and radio astronomy) within Africa with a particular emphasis on smaller, regional universities and higher education establishments via visiting expert lecture visits in Ghana, Madagascar and Zambia. During the visits, lecturing staff were also able to engage directly with senior university staff members in multiple institutes to initiate new mutually beneficial relationships between EU and African researchers and institutes. One of the lecturers, Ms. Naomi Asabre-Frimpong (at the time a Ghanaian student studying for a PhD in Astrophysics at the University of Manchester) documented her experiences and progressions in an associated Nature-Jobs blog article.
JUMPING JIVE actions supported building future and sustainable expert research communities across various African countries that can help to maximise the benefits of ongoing research infrastructure investment, such as the SKA and African VLBI Network, which also provide tangible benefits to economic growth via education and skills training. These objectives provide mutual benefits for African and European research Institutes and facilities (including JIVE) and individuals alike.
The early-career researchers involved in these programmes are rapidly becoming role models for the next generation, and are fostering a self-sustaining pipeline of talent and interest in science Furthermore, multiple businesses and outreach programmes have been set up by participants who have benefited from the skills and guidance provided. Success stories include:
- Sayari - An ethical astro-tourism businesses founded in 2018-2019 in the Maasai Mara, Kenya (more information);
- Elimisha Mischana Elimisha Jamii na Astronomia – A programme positively tackling gender-based inequalities in secondary school education in rural Kenya reaching out to thousand of students;
- Start-up businesses in Zambia.