The new network met for its inaugural conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 16 to 18 November 2011.

The AGNES Network is designed to enhance the visibility of the leading role played by research and innovation in sustainable development in sub-Saharan Africa. Leading researchers from the region wish to work more closely with each other and with colleagues in Germany, and also enlist junior researchers for new research collaborations.

AGNES is to support social change in Africa which is creating more scope for individual achievement and making academic excellence a socially recognised criterion for professional development. Whereas in the past the heads of university institutes, for example, were often appointed on grounds of seniority, increasingly they are now highly qualified young academics. They are expected to support the development of strategies at African universities to meet the diverse challenges facing Africa and to educate scientists and scholars at international level.
The foundation of an "African-German Network of Excellence in Science" (AGNES) will create a supra-regional contact structure to strengthen academic excellence in sub-Sahara Africa that is able to reach out beyond the Humboldt Network in its narrower sense.