On 14 April, Switzerland and Côte d’Ivoire signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in Abidjan to strengthen cooperation in science, technology and innovation. The agreement officialises the transfer of funds from the Strategic Support Programme for Scientific Research (PASRES) to the new National Fund for Science, Technology and Innovation of Côte d’Ivoire (FONSTI).
The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MESRS) and the Swiss Centre for Scientific Research in Côte d’Ivoire (CSRS) established the Strategic Support Programme for Scientific Research (PASRES) in 2007, after the debt relief programme of the Ivoirian-Swiss Fund for Economic and Social Development (Fonds Ivoiro Suisse pour le Développement Economique et Social, FISDES), which SECO had been supporting, was dissolved. When PASRES was first set up, the decision was made to allocate CFA 5 billion (around CHF 7.8 million) from FISDES to PASRES, in order to create a long-term national Ivorian fund for research; this was achieved in 2018 with the creation of FONSTI.
The interest generated by the Swiss funds has made it possible to finance some 20 research projects a year. A 2007 declaration of intent set conditions that needed to be met before funds could be transferred from PASRES to FONSTI, to ensure FONSTI is able to function effectively in the long term. An external evaluation carried out by an Ivorian-Swiss expert group in 2021 confirmed that these conditions had been successfully met.
The MoU between SERI and MESRS was signed on 14 April by the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research of Côte d’Ivoire, Adama Diawara, and the Swiss Ambassador to Côte d’Ivoire, Anne Lugon-Moulin. This MoU represents an important step for cooperation in the field of education, research and innovation. It formalises the transfer of PASRES funds and projects to the Ivorian FONSTI fund, and ends Switzerland’s formal involvement in this process. Both signatories remain committed to continuing their good scientific cooperation.
Among the West African countries, Switzerland has the most intensive scientific relations with Côte d’Ivoire. The two countries have cooperated in science matters since the CSRS’s inception in Côte d’Ivoire in 1951. Since then, several agreements and collaborations with Swiss institutions have strengthened this cooperation over the years. The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) provided its expertise throughout the transition process, which started in 2007 and is now a strategic partner for the new Ivorian fund. In particular, the SNSF will continue to support FONSTI on a voluntary basis within the framework of a direct collaboration between research funding agencies. The Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute in Basel (Swiss TPH) has received a SERI mandate to, together with the University of Basel, participate in this cooperation as a Leading House for the sub-Saharan African region.