The IRD, the CNRS and CIRAD, three French public research organisations working together in a joint office in Pretoria, just renewed their agreement with the South African National Research Foundation.

This agreement includes crucial knowledge interchange and great opportunities for researchers that wish to develop their international scientific networks and conduct global research for impact.

We met Prudence Makhura, the Director for Collaborative Grants and Initiatives at the NRF, who is in charge of overseas partnerships including the South African-French cooperation.


The partnership dates back to more than 10 years ago


One of the keys to success: long-term cooperation. This French-South African partnership has formally started in 2008, with the signing of the SA/France bilateral agreement on Science, Technology and Innovation. The NRF and the IRD, the CNRS and CIRAD entered into a first scientific agreement in 2015, for greater impact and value added.

Prudence Makhura indicates: “The IRD, the CNRS and Cirad remain strategic partners for the NRF. Through this partnership, the NRF is able to pro-actively contribute to the internationalisation of the South African research and higher education ecosystems, promote globally competitive research and innovation, promote human capacity development programmes, and enhance strategic international engagements. Among others, the co-funding procedure allows the South African – French scientific partnerships to thrive.”


Scientific projects can be co-financed by both sides

Prudence Makhura


Each year, the IRD, the CNRS and CIRAD fund research projects via their international tools such as International Research Networks (CNRS), Groupement de recherche international-Sud (IRD) and Platforms in partnerships for research and training (CIRAD). Every time a project is funded by the French side, it is then submitted to the NRF for assessment in accordance with the NRF evaluation criteria and “if the assessment is positive, the NRF would co-finance the project. South African researchers can receive co-funding of anything between R120 000 and R800 000 per annum for over 4-years. It really depends on the focus of the project and the activities to be supported.” Prudence Makhura outlines. “Of course, the first criteria is to involve scientists from both France and South Africa.” A great opportunity to foster cooperation between the two countries!


7 projects have been co-funded so far


7 projects already received a co-funding by the French institutions and the NRF! “Most of these projects are supported for a 4-year period, some of which have been co-funded as far back as 2010” says Prudence. Jean-Pascal Torreton, head of the joint IRD-CNRS-CIRAD office in Pretoria highlights the importance of building long-term projects: “Some of the projects have been renewed more than once and have completely changed formats. The HOMEN project, for example, started small and is now an International Research Lab. To my opinion, these long-term partnerships also provide better opportunities for contributing to capacity building.”

The BuCOMO International Research Project (IRP) is the latest project that was co-funded by the CNRS and NRF. Gary Stevens, geologist at the Stellenbosch University was delighted by the news: “The CNRS has been supporting us for a long time. We received the news about the NRF co-funding of the IRP last month. This additional support will help us conduct significant research and knowledge exchange in geology, in France and in South Africa, with our students.


The agreement includes many joint activities such as capacity-building, co-organisation of events, etc.


The recent renewal of the agreement does not only include the co-funding procedure. Many joint activities are planned, such as expertise interchange, training and capacity building activities, joint organisation of seminars, joint response to calls and joint publications. “The joint office cooperates with the NRF on a daily basis. Our friendly and fruitful collaboration is guided by a common interest: the development of scientific partnerships between South Africa and the French institutions represented by the office”, Jean-Pascal Torréton specifies.

In 2019, this cooperation was exemplified by the joint organisation of the French-South African Science and Innovation Days, as a side-event of the Science Forum South Africa. “A great success, with more than 150 attendees on both days. It gave a boost to much scientific cooperation,” says Prudence.



For more information on the agreement, please contact