The bustling city of Tokyo provided the backdrop for a transformative journey as participants from the West and Central African Research and Education Network (WACREN) gathered at the prestigious National Institute of Informatics (NII). The occasion was a workshop to advance the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Open Science between the parties, offering a unique opportunity to unravel the complexities of repository systems and forge collaborative efforts to propel open access in research.

The first day of the workshop set the stage with introductory sessions. Participants immersed themselves in hands-on seminars, gaining practical insights into implementing WEKO3 and the intricacies of setting up JAIRO Cloud infrastructure. This initial foray laid a solid foundation, offering a tangible understanding of the functionality and nuances of these repository systems.

Building on this foundation, operational aspects and implementing open-source systems for automating software deployment took centre stage. The introduction to the NII OA Assist Systems, which enables libraries to simultaneously check the information about newly published journal articles of affiliated researchers and their archiving policies, broadened the horizon, offering a comprehensive understanding of the broader open-access landscape and igniting a collective enthusiasm for advancing accessibility in research.

As the workshop progressed, the focus shifted to software development for the shared repository service in Africa. WACREN participants engaged in workshops that imparted essential skills and empowered them to contribute actively to the ongoing development of Invenio-based WEKO3. The collaborators dedicated the final days to charting the future of repository services. Presentations covered Research Data Management Infrastructure and Data Governance functions and facilitated in-depth discussions with relevant stakeholders. These conversations solidified a shared vision for the future of repository services, one tailor-made to adapt within the unique context of African research.

As the curtains descended on the NII-WACREN workshop, we left Tokyo armed with a rich tapestry of knowledge and skills from the exchanges. Key takeaways included practical proficiency in WEKO3 and JAIRO Cloud, a broadened understanding of the open-access landscape, and empowerment for software development. The discussions on research data management and governance functions addressed an increased appreciation of the challenges and outlined a future roadmap.

Looking forward, the spirit of collaboration forged in Tokyo lays the groundwork for the upcoming WACREN Conference themed ‘Charting The Course: Forging Future-Ready Higher Education and Research Communities’. The seeds planted during this workshop are poised to blossom into transformative initiatives, shaping the future of research and education in West and Central Africa.

In the spirit of WACREN 2024, the lessons learned, and the connections made in Tokyo will propel us forward into a future where we continuously push the boundaries of open science and let the collective efforts of our diverse communities converge to create a more interconnected and accessible world of research.

The journey does not end in Tokyo; it is a stepping stone towards the collaborative and open future we aspire to create. Our next stop is Abuja, Nigeria.