Love for Africa and Congo: The Belgian reference center for expertise on Central Africa

Belgium and Africa, in particular Congo, have always had my special interest.
The Belgian reference center for the Expertise on Central-Africa, abbreviated as E-CA, also known as CRE-AC abbreviated in French (Centre belge de réference pour l’Expertise sur l’Afrique-Centrale) was officially established on 28 november 2006, as a legal non-profit international organization. I have been the chairman of this center since it’s foundation.

How did this center come about? During a meeting with King Albert II, when I was the Speaker of the House, the King expressed concern about the evolution and development of relations between Belgium and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Belgium, with Brussels as the de facto capital of Europe, became more and more embedded in Europe; whereas Congo,  faced with major problems, became more and more isolated.  The flattening of relations, both socio-economically and culturally, was a just concern for King Albert II.  Could our country not take an initiative whereby the parties concerned, working in domains affecting both countries would get together to promote the ideas and cooperate?

At that time, as the Speaker of the House, I took on this task gladly, which later resulted in the establishment of the Belgian Reference Center for Expertise on Central Africa. The concentration of expertise and knowledge about Africa from a federal knowledge center was established at the Royal Museum for Central Africa (that is transferred into the Africa Museum in 2018) in Tervuren-Brussels.

Under the successive directors, Theodore Trefon, Stefaan Marysse, and since 2016 Prof. Sara Geenen (University of Antwerp) and Prof. An Ansoms (Université Catholique de Louvain), work has been carried out on three points:  publications, debate sessions, and grants.

Since 2010, there have been about 65 information and debate sessions organized, which always take place in one of the roundabout halls in the Parliament, hence the name “Roundabout Policy Talks.”  The aim is to allow specialists to speak about Central Africa and to have a debate based on their insights eith the various actors involved in the region.

The second essential objective is to self-publish or facilitate publications about Central Africa. The

important thing here is that “Conjonctures Congolaises”, which has been known since the merger with the “Annuaire de l’Afrique des Grands Lacs” under the name “Conjoncturen de l’Afrique Centrale”.

The third objective is to provide grants for young researchers. African students, in particular, sometimes have difficulty accessing grants for field research in their own region. Our expertise center has supported the researchers since 2014, not only financially but also through supervision by experts from ECA – CREAC. The best studies, therefore, find their way to a publication.

If you would like to get further information about our center, please visit: eca-creac.eu