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DARA (Development in Africa with Radio Astronomy)

The DARA project (Development in Africa with Radio Astronomy) is led by the University of Leeds School of Physics and Astronomy and supported by Goonhilly Earth Station Ltd. as an industry partner, as well as partners including the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory, the South African National Space Agency and the Universities of Hertfordshire, Manchester, Oxford, Bristol and Central Lancashire. The project aims to develop high tech skills through training in radio astronomy in a number of African countries: Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia. University of Leeds Professor Melvin Hoare spearheaded the program in 2015 with funding from the Newton Fund, which uses the UK’s Overseas Development Assistance budget for scientific collaboration with developing countries. Since its founding, the DARA project has trained 140 students in partner African countries with another 120 set to be trained in coming years.

The DARA project seeks to empower local students to take ownership of their nations’ future rather than providing Western experts to directly drive economic growth. The programme provides four weeks of academic training to ten students each year, covering a variety of subjects including computing, data science, business development and best practices and networking. Entrepreneurs from Goonhilly have joined academics in this teaching programme to provide students with a diverse array of experiences and expertise so that they leave the programme with the practical skills required to start their own business endeavors. For example, one student from Zambia used the knowledge and skills he gained from the DARA training program to start his own consulting firm with other graduates to provide environmental project briefs for large businesses in the region. The DARA project is also providing funding for a dozen African students to go through Masters and PhD programs in the UK, after which they will return to their homelands to put their new skills into use driving commercial growth and hopefully passing on knowledge to the next generation.

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