Tertiary Education Network

Fostering Research and Education
Networking in Africa:

Announcement and Call for Proposals


Executive Summary: TENET announces a program of assistance to emerging NRENs in Africa and calls for proposals in this regard. The scope of proposals is permissive: provided that an activity can be persuasively linked to a desirable outcome in an NREN’s development path, it will be considered. This program, which is generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, aims to promote new or existing developments in NREN formation, and also to strengthen the community of practice of NRENs in Africa.

Background: Much interest in recent years has been focussed on National Research and Education Networks in developing countries, and many initiatives are active in promoting the formation of such NRENs. As one of several NRENs in Africa, TENET has sought ways to contribute creatively to the continental cause of research and education networking. FRENIA (“Fostering Research and Education Networking in Africa”) is intended to provide practical help for an NREN in the process of formation or development.

NRENs can emerge in many ways: there is no standard formula for their establishment. As a rule, though, they depend on an initial exercise of leadership, at the most senior level of founding institutions, in agreeing to collaborate. Once there is agreement at this level, there are many paths forward.

One of the commonest is along the following lines:

  • to record such agreement in a memorandum of understanding
  • to establish a task team with definite resources and a definite mandate
  • to form an operational vehicle of some sort (often a non-profit company or other non-governmental legal entity)
  • and then to negotiate with both suppliers and customers with a view to building a network and offering a set of network services.

But there are many other ways to arrive at an operational NREN.

Whatever path is followed, some of the stages can be demanding on institutional resources. This is where FRENIA aims to assist.

FRENIA is willing to entertain any proposal for the funding of any activity, where there is a persuasive argument about how that activity will lead to outcomes that further the development of an NREN. Examples of such activities would be: bringing experts from existing or emerging NRENs to assist in workshops or task teams; legal and/or technical negotiations, or secondments to task teams; use of external contractors on task teams; awareness-raising activities on the part of national champions or trailblazers; and assistance in developing capacity in the many operational activities, including accounting and financial management, that an NREN must undertake once formed.

FRENIA isn’t just about funding. It’s also about nurturing the community of practice of the many existing and emerging NRENs in Africa, and bringing their expertise and insight to bear wherever it can be helpful. Even in contexts where there is relatively little terrestrial infrastructure and institutions are still reliant upon VSAT connectivity, there is plenty of scope for the formation of NRENs, as vehicles that can offer other services and can pave the way for fiber-based networks.

First Call for Proposals

TENET invites interested parties to make proposals for assistance under this program. Proposals will be considered from institutions or consortia from the higher education and research community in Africa. Examples of activities that FRENIA is willing to assist include:

  • Workshops or strategic planning exercises within a stakeholder community
  • Assistance for task teams, including assistance to facilitate full-time short-term secondments
  • Assistance in negotiating contracts or other legal agreements
  • Assistance in navigating regulatory terrain
  • Training for newly formed NRENs in operational aspects of NREN management and administration
  • This list is not definitive: all proposals will be considered, provided that they argue persuasively that an activity or initiative will lead to a desirable outcome.
  • TENET will consider requests for pre-proposal meetings or workshops to assist potential proposers to refine or otherwise focus their requests.

    There is no submission deadline for proposals, which will, until further notice, be accepted at any time. Proposals should be sent by emails to .