Initiative Afrique

African universities are important partners for the University of Bern. With the Initiative Afrique, the UniBE is placing a new emphasis on its internationalisation strategy, which bundles expertise in Africa and promotes networking. On this website, you will find information on existing activities and resources.

For many years, the University of Bern has been strongly committed to promoting science and fostering global research networks, particularly with partners in Africa. "We firmly believe that tackling global problems requires global cooperation - a principle on which our internationalisation strategy is based," says Hugues Abriel, Vice-Rector for Research and Innovation at the University of Bern.

The Initiative Afrique of the University of Bern was created by the Vice-Rectorate Research and Innovation and the Vice-Rectorate International and Academic Careers. It serves as a platform for gathering all research activities relating to Africa and facilitating better networking within and outside the University of Bern. Other projects or synergies are to be supported by the Initiative Afrique.

The Guild and ARUA

The University of Berne has recognised expertise in research on Africa and many years' experience of working with African partners. Joining The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities (The Guild) was an opportunity to further strengthen this commitment, as this network works closely with the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA).

As experts in international research collaboration, ARUA and The Guild have launched the Cluster of Research Excellence (CoRE) initiative. The aim of this initiative is to create, through clusters, a new model of collaborative research that emphasises equal opportunities as a prerequisite for effective research excellence. At the same time, clusters should make central contributions to global science in the key areas (Public Health, Green Transition, Innovation and Technology, Capacities for Science) of the African Union (AU)-European Union (EU) Innovation Agenda. In 2023, ARUA and The Guild have launched 20 Africa-Europe Clusters of Research Excellence (Africa-Europe CoRE).

The Africa-Europe CoREs are jointly coordinated by a member of The Guild and a member of ARUA and are characterised by a long-term vision. In addition to joint research projects, the focus is on promoting young researchers, for example by establishing a joint doctoral programme.

Two of these Africa-Europe CoREs are led by researchers from the University of Bern, in collaboration with African partners (see press release). The Multidisciplinary Center for Infectious Diseases (MCID) and the Center for Development and Environment (CDE) are each participating in a CoRE. The former focuses on medical genomics, the latter on sustainable water and land management.



The European Union (EU) declared relations with the African Union (AU) a new priority for 2019. The Guild then recognised that, in this context, an ambitious new initiative for African-European academic cooperation was also needed. To this end, it entered into a partnership with ARUA. The two networks subsequently published a position paper and a concept paper containing proposals for scientific collaboration. In these documents, ARUA and The Guild criticised the lack of coordination between research policy and development policy and pointed out that insufficient emphasis was placed on strengthening the research capacity of African universities. Instead of promoting individual projects, long-term alliances should be supported to encourage scientific capacity building. The Guild and ARUA have therefore proposed the creation of "clusters of research excellence" to meet the common challenges of Africa and Europe and thus make a sustainable investment in Africa's knowledge community.

The two documents met with a great response, both from the European Commission and from European and African academic circles. For example, more than 200 researchers from all over the world, particularly from Africa, published a declaration supporting the positions defended by The Guild and ARUA. The importance of academic cooperation in EU-AU relations was also demonstrated at the sixth European Union-African Union summit in February 2022, where a new joint innovation agenda was adopted. All the central requests and proposals made by The Guild and ARUA were included, such as the establishment of clusters of excellence - a great success for both networks.

The African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) was inaugurated in Dakar in March 2015 and brings together sixteen of Africa's leading universities.

ARUA aims to become a pan-African network that, by developing strong research universities, will advance academic excellence across the continent to find solutions to Africa's development challenges.

The Guild was founded in 2016 and counts among its members 21 [see(1)][AIC(2)] of Europe's top research-intensive universities from 16 countries. It is committed to strengthening the voice of academic institutions, research teams and the student body. The Guild is committed to the pursuit of excellence, the recognition of truth and the establishment of trust as the basis of public life. The Guild is also committed to creating new knowledge that will benefit society, culture, and economic growth. The University of Bern has been a member of The Guild since 2017.

Resources for equitable cross-border research partnerships

The Commission for Research Partnerships with Developing Countries (KFPE) of the Swiss Academy of Sciences (SCNAT) has developed guidelines for cross-border research partnerships.


Initiative Afrique is supported by a community that was created on November 27, 2023, at the University of Bern. This community serves as the basis for prioritising further structures and activities of Initiative Afrique.